Unused pandemic field hospital at Joseph Brant to be part of regional COVID-19 strategy

A 93-bed field hospital hastily erected outside Joseph Brant Hospital in anticipation of an initial surge in COVID-19 cases will now find new life as a regional resource, should the need for more space arise.

Area hospitals are working together to prepare for 'potential surges in COVID cases'

Jospeh Brant spent more than $2 million erecting the pandemic response unit, which can house up to 93 patients and will now be part of a regional strategy for COVID-19. (Joseph Brant Hospital/YouTube)

A 93-bed field hospital hastily erected outside Joseph Brant Hospital in anticipation of an initial surge in COVID-19 cases will find new life as a regional resource in the event of a pandemic second wave.

Plans for the pandemic response unit (PRU) were announced in March and construction quickly got underway. The hospital spent more than $2 million building the facility in a matter of weeks, but it has yet to see its first patient.

Now that could change.

Hospitals in Hamilton, Niagara, Burlington, Haldimand, Norfolk and Brant are teaming up to ensure the area's healthcare system remains stable, "particularly during times when there may be a surge in cases of COVID-19," according to an update from their CEOs and presidents.

The aim is to manage the highs and lows of demand cause by the pandemic in order to maintain capacity while disrupting scheduled care as little as possible.

That's where the field hospital comes in.

The unit was designed to care for stable COVID-19 patients with mild to moderate symptoms who can't be cared for at home, including those who need oxygen therapy or to be monitored for symptoms.

"We know that COVID-19 remains an ongoing threat," stated Joseph Brant's CEO  Eric Vandewall in the update.

"As we move into the next phase of COVID planning, we stand at the ready with a state-of-the-art temporary field hospital structure that will serve as a regional resource to care to COVID-19 patients should the need arise."

The unit was built with "painstaking attention to infection prevention control practices" and is designed for all seasons, added chief of staff Dr. Ian Preyra in a video showcasing the structure.

Take a look inside the pandemic response unit:

Four hospitals have also been designated to provide acute COVID-19 care: Hamilton General, Joseph Brant, the Niagara Health site in St. Catharines and St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton.

Norfolk General Hospital and the Brant Community Healthcare system will provide local COVID-19 care, but may transfer patients with the virus to one of the designated hospitals if necessary, reads the update.

"It is our hope that transmission rates in our region will remain low," said Rob MacIsaac CEO of Hamilton Health Sciences, and chair of the Regional CEO Committee for Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Norfolk Brant Burlington.

"However, by creating this type of approach we will ensure that we are prepared for potential surges in COVID cases."


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