Haldimand and Norfolk set up temporary hospitals in arenas, and ask for help staffing them

Haldimand and Norfolk have set up "pop-up" COVID-19 hospitals in two arenas, complete with barriers and cots, and has issued a call for volunteers that includes paramedics, nurses, lawyers and food service workers.

The 2 counties have no COVID-19 cases yet, but they're preparing for them

The Port Dover arena is one of two arenas in Haldimand and Norfolk that have been set up as temporary hospitals. (Norfolk County)

Haldimand and Norfolk have set up "pop-up" COVID-19 hospitals in two arenas, complete with barriers and cots, and has issued a call for volunteers that includes paramedics, nurses, lawyers and food service workers.

The two counties, which share the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit, have set up infirmaries at the Dunnville Memorial Arena in Haldimand County, and the Port Dover Arena in Norfolk.

The goal, Norfolk said in a media release, is to use the sites if there's overflow at local hospitals. Mayor Kristal Chopp of Norfolk County posted a picture on Facebook of one of the sites last week, and it shows evenly spaced green cots for future patients.

"These new interim clinical centres are one way that the county of Norfolk and the county of Haldimand can be prepared," she said in the post. Chopp, who's also an Air Canada pilot, has been self isolating.

"Residents should be assured that we are taking all steps and precautions necessary to minimize the negative impacts of this virus in Haldimand," said Mayor Ken Hewitt of Haldimand in a media release. 

Haldimand-Norfolk has set up two temporary hospitals and is calling for volunteers. (Kristal Chopp/Facebook)

The two counties, which have hospitals in Simcoe, Hagersville and Dunnville, have yet to see a case of COVID-19. A Haldimand emergency worker tested positive on Wednesday, the county said, but the person lives outside the county.

More broadly, Ontario has 671 confirmed cases of coronavirus and nine deaths as of 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. Canada has 1,959 cases and 27 deaths.

Haldimand-Norfolk's medical officer of health, Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, has criticized the province for not taking tough enough measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

The Toronto Star reported last week that Nesathurai emailed his fellow medical officers of health about this. "We do not have the luxury of time," he said in the email.

Hamilton hasn't yet taken similar steps toward temporary hospital sites, despite having 39 cases and one death. 

No similar measures in Hamilton

Bart Harvey, associate medical officer of health, says Hamilton's two hospital systems are "certainly very sensitive to the notions of their finite resources.

"But at this point, the resources they have are holding up," he said Tuesday. "I haven't been privy to any kind of conversations that they're anywhere beyond the really early contemplation of needing additional physical space or resources to deal with what they have now or what they expect in the foreseeable future."

The city may make future calls for volunteers, says Paul Johnson, director of Hamilton's emergency operations site. 

Haldimand-Norfolk says it's looking for volunteers not only to staff the temporary sites, but to deliver food to isolated seniors, among other tasks. 

It needs nursing staff (registered or not), dieticians, personal support workers, food handlers, chefs, respiratory therapists, health care aides, firefighters, among others. Interested volunteers can sign up at hnhu.org/covidvolunteers

Haldimand is also allowing seasonal trailer parks to open earlier than usual so returning snow birds can self isolate in them.


Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She often tweets about Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca


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