HHS field hospital opens Monday but it's 'very unlikely' it'll get used: official

Hamilton Health Sciences' (HHS) 80-bed field hospital is ready to take patients beginning Monday, but it's unclear how many patients will actually need to us it as the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations decline.

Field hospital ready for use, but COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to decline

Hamilton Health Sciences is building a field hospital as the province continues to see people get sick and hospitalized because of COVID-19. (Talia Ricci/CBC)

Hamilton Health Sciences' (HHS) 80-bed field hospital is ready to take patients starting Monday, but may not ever get used, according to a high-ranking HHS official.

"It's come along very well ... looking very unlikely that we will ever use it, but it certainly has been of value to see it there as we think about what could've been the trajectory of COVID," Sharon Pierson, HHS chief operating officer and executive vice-president of clinical operations, said during a town hall meeting on May 20.

That's because the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across the province continues to decline. But at one point, the federal government was considering sending extra people — such as members of the Canadian Armed Forces — to HHS' field hospital.

The field hospital was built in the footprint of its Wellington Street North parking lot to alleviate the pressures of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly on intensive care units.

The facility will accommodate people nearing the end of their hospital stay, with most patients only staying for five to six days.

"The intention would be that the most critically ill patients are able to access beds within the bricks and mortar hospital," said Rebecca Fleck, the field hospital's clinical director.

WATCH: Drone footage of HHS field hospital

Drone footage of the Hamilton Health Sciences field hospital

1 year ago
Duration 1:48
A drone flies over the Hamilton Health Sciences field hospital on Wellington Street North.

There are 626 ICU patients with COVID-19 across the province as of Saturday morning. That's down since the number of critically ill patients peaked at 828 on May 1.

HHS is providing the nursing staff required for the first 20 beds and will use outside resources beyond that.

"We are providing training to all of our nursing staff in the same way we're providing if they were working in the hospital," said Charissa Cordon, HHS' nursing practice chief. "They're actually getting a little bit more. In particular, a lot of simulations in this environment."

Toronto field hospital empty for past week

This is the second field hospital in Ontario recently built. The other one is in Toronto at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

The MHUs were built by Weatherhaven, a Canadian company specializing in field hospitals.

"The shelters themselves are designed in minus -50 C to plus 50 C with temperature control and air pressure control inside," said Ray Castelli, Weatherhaven CEO.

"And what that air pressure control does, is it allows us to do air exchanges every two minutes. And what that does is it keeps the healthcare workers safer in any of the 20 we built around the world. So this is very much state of the art."

The Toronto field hospital had more than 30 patients come through, all of which weren't at Sunnybrook before — it's been empty for nearly a week.

Both MHUs will remain up in a state of preparedness until the ministry of health says to take them down.

With files from Bobby Hristova and Dale Manucdoc