Nfld. & Labrador

Pandemic preparation: Here's where the province's resources are

With the peak of the coronavirus pandemic expected later this year, life-saving resources in each region of the province vary. 

No ICU beds in Labrador; on the island, health authorities plan to increase capacity

Life-saving resources — like ventilators, ICU equipment and staff — vary from health region to health region. (Thaiview/Shutterstock)

With the peak of the coronavirus pandemic expected later this year, life-saving resources in each of Newfoundland and Labrador's health regions vary. 

In Labrador-Grenfell Health, where the province's first cases of COVID-19 appeared in early March, there is one four-bed intensive-care unit, at the Charles S. Curtis Memorial Hospital in St. Anthony on the Northern Peninsula. There are no designated ICU beds in Labrador.

Through a spokesperson, Labrador-Grenfell Health declined an interview, but in a statement the health authority said anyone requiring highly specialized tertiary care will be transported to Eastern Health. Intensive care is "defined by the level of care required, skill set of staff and equipment, it is not a location," says the statement.

The statement says the authority has 15 ventilators and is searching for 15 more.

Wabush Mayor Ron Barron says he is worried about a surge in cases in the region. He has called for people entering Labrador West to isolate for 14 days. File photo. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

With just four of those ventilators and two oxygen rooms in Labrador West, Wabush Mayor Ron Barron worries about a surge of cases.

"It's definitely a wakeup call as to what we do have available," said Barron.

"Is it enough? Right now it is, because we don't have any cases really. [But] if this took off in the region we wouldn't be nowhere near ready to look after people with what we have."

Barron is among a number of community leaders calling on the province to halt non-essential travel to Labrador, which has three cases of COVID-19, which the provincial government has rejected. Barron also wants people entering the region to isolate for 14 days. 

"This is how this stuff gets spread, it's travel. So let's limit every minute of travel that anybody has to take," said Barron.

"What's really disheartening is that the premier didn't listen to the people here in Labrador."

Meanwhile, 34 employees and physicians at Labrador-Grenfell Health are self-isolating, and one health-care worker has tested positive for coronavirus as of Wednesday.

Western Health

Western Health can isolate patients in dedicated coronavirus units at the Western Memorial Regional Hospital in Corner Brook and at the Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital in Stephenville. There are 27 beds in Corner Brook's COVID-19 unit, with planning underway for a second 11-bed unit. In Stephenville, there are six beds.

Western Memorial Regional Hospital's ICU has eight beds available with the capacity for three more, and 10 more in the operating room recovery area. In the Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital there are two ICU beds, with room for one more.

The Western region has 29 ventilators and is looking for 15 more. 

All four of Labrador-Grenfell Health's ICU beds are at the Charles S. Curtis Memorial Hospital in St. Anthony. (Google Streetview)

Teara Freake, Western Health's vice-president of clinical-patient services, said the long-term care facility due to open this spring in Corner Brook can be used to fee up hospital beds.

She said they plan to move patients who are in hospital waiting for long-term care beds to the new facility.

"So that would then create capacity within Western Memorial for the COVID patients or any additional acute-care patients who require a higher level of care," said Freake.

Freake says Western Health is prepared to face a surge in cases.

"We feel we have the competency of staff and the appropriate skill mix to be able to care for patients."

Central Health

In Central Health, the second-largest health authority in the province, there are 23 beds in a dedicated COVID-19 unit at the Central Newfoundland Regional Health Centre in Grand Falls-Windsor. The health region has 17 ventilators and 17 ICU beds. The College of the North Atlantic, and stadiums in Gander and Grand-Falls Windsor, would be used for surge capacity, with 100 cots available.

As of Thursday, 36 employees and physicians were self-isolating, and none were positive for COVID-19.

Eastern Health

The bulk of the province's coronavirus cases — 227 cases — are in the Eastern Health region, the largest region in the province, where most of the province's life-saving resources are.

Eastern Health has 65 ICU beds and 127 ventilators.

Eastern Health has 65 ICU beds and 127 ventilators. The region also has a 30-bed COVID-19 unit and is planning a second unit with 11 beds. (CBC)

The Health Authority has created a 30-bed COVID-19 unit at the Health Sciences Centre, with plans underway for a second one.  

Last month, CEO David Diamond told CBC News that Memorial University's Field House will be used as a backup emergency clinic if needed. It has 10 beds available.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

About the Author

Heather Gillis

Journalist

Heather Gillis has been reporting in Newfoundland and Labrador since 2011.

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