The director of the Samaritan's Purse emergency field hospital operating in New York City's Central Park said the group will "absolutely not" turn away queer COVID-19 patients, despite the parent organization's views on homosexuality.
"We treat all people without regard to race, sexual orientation, gender, anything," Dr. Elliott Tenpenny told Cheddar Thursday. "The only thing we care about is who's in need."
The project in partnership with Mount Sinai has faced some controversy surrounding the religious views of Samaritan's Purse, an evangelical Christian relief organization. Franklin Graham, the son of late televangelist Billy Graham, runs Samaritan's Purse.
New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson spoke out against him in a tweet on Tuesday.
"Franklin Graham has a long history of spewing anti-LGBTQ hate speech and I find it extremely troubling that he and his organization are involved in our relief efforts in any way," Johnson said in a statement.
As of Thursday morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio had yet to visit the site. He said his administration will monitor the situation to make sure there is no discrimination.
Dr. Tenpenny said Thursday he has worked in war zones in Iraq, even treating ISIS patients.
"With only regards to who needed it, who was wounded, who was necessary, who needed the care," he said. "And that's all we care about here in New York."
Dr. Tenpenny has experience treating patients suffering from Ebola in West Africa, but said he never thought he'd be working in Central Park.
Six tractor-trailers carried the 68-bed unit to New York Saturday morning. The field hospital began treating patients Wednesday.
Around the world, health care workers have faced shortages of protective equipment including masks. Dr. Tenpenny said the organization has enough supply to maintain the Central Park location and its similar field hospital in northern Italy for "the full deployment."
He said it's not clear how long the field hospital will remain in Central Park.
"The truth is we don't know," Dr. Tenpenny said. "We just don't know. The need of the world is concentrated here in New York City."