Joseph Brant Hospital to erect 93-bed pandemic unit for COVID-19 surge

A local hospital is building a pandemic response unit to deal with future influx of COVID-19 patients.

The Burlington hospital says the unit will provide acute care for patients with the virus

Joseph Brant hospital will add an acute pandemic care unit on-site. (Mike Crawley/CBC)

A Burlington hospital is building a separate pandemic response facility that will cost more than $2 million, in preparation for a surge of COVID-19 patients. 

Joseph Brant Hospital announced Monday it will erect a temporary 93-bed unit by April 10 for patients with mild to moderate symptoms of the virus who will likely overwhelm hospital resources in the next two weeks.

According to hospital officials, the unit will support COVID-19 patients who require constant monitoring or oxygen therapy and free up acute care space in their current facilities for patients in more severe condition. 

"If you look at the experience of other jurisdictions in North America and across the world, there is a surge capacity that would overwhelm the resources of any hospital no matter what steps we take to mitigate its effects," said Dr. Ian Preyra, chief of staff for Brant Hospital. 

The hope, Preyra added, is that the pandemic unit can help them better mitigate the impact of the surge on care and hospital resources. 

Within the sealed unit, each patient will have a dedicated oxygen machine, staff will be equipped with the necessary personal protective equipment and a tunnel will lead into the hospital's South Tower for easy access to critical care space.

The facility will be staffed by family physicians who volunteer from the local community, said Preyra, adding that the unit will likely require between eight to 12 doctors. 

Each bed is estimated to cost between $22,000 and $25,000, a commitment that the hospital approved through its board of directors, said Brant hospital's president Eric Vandewall. He added that it will seek financial support from the $3 billion that Ontario Premier Doug Ford has set aside for the healthcare industry. 

Construction for the pandemic unit began Tuesday. The hospital is collaborating with community-based health care providers, the City of Burlington and Halton Region on the facility.