Empty space in new Windsor-Essex hospital could be used as surge capacity in future pandemics: Officials

To avoid field hospitals held together with tarps and duct tape in future outbreaks or pandemics, the new acute care hospital in Windsor-Essex will be equipped with large sections of unused space to allow for surge capacity.

Construction planned start in 4.5 years at site near Windsor airport

The new mega-hospital will be built on land at the southeast corner of County Road 42 and Concession Road 9. (Jason Viau/CBC)

To avoid field hospitals held together with tarps and duct tape in future outbreaks or pandemics, the new acute care hospital in Windsor-Essex will be equipped with large sections of unused space to allow for surge capacity.

New information was released Tuesday afternoon about the hospital project, as Paul Landry was named project director. Currently, he's overseeing Stage 2 of the process that outlines what programs, staffing and equipment is needed for the new facility on County Road 42, near Windsor Airport.

There's a Ministry of Health expectation, Landry said, that the new Windsor hospital contain empty rooms "for the future." The unused space would be a part of long-term needs and projections up to 2038, but could also serve as space in the interim.

"That will [also] provide us this flex capacity should we need those additional beds to surge into in response to perhaps a future pandemic," said Landry.

Those extra beds and empty spaces would be "fully equipped" with ICU capabilities "ready to open up," as well as in-patient beds, Landry added.

"The goal is as we move forward, we don't want to have to open up field hospitals, we don't want tarps and duct tape as being the way we provide care and that's what the new hospital brings," said Windsor Regional Hospital (WRH) CEO David Musyj.

WRH opened up a field hospital at the St. Clair College Sportsplex in the spring of 2020 as the region grappled with the first wave of COVID-19.

Paul Landry, Project Director, New Windsor/Essex Acute Care Hospital (Windsor Regional Hospital)

Landry brings the experience of overseeing other large-scale hospital builds across Canada, including a $3-billion hospital redevelopment project in Montreal with 772 beds, and a 475-bed teaching hospital in Vancouver.

"In fact, some of the new hospitals even shelve in a complete floor to add space for two inpatient units," said Landry. "We could proceed with fitting them out, construction the rooms and equipping all of the rooms in a much shorter period of time than if we were to try to add another floor on the top of the hospital."

With the second of five project phases currently in progress, the beginning of construction isn't planned to happen until the summer of 2026, but that's a rough timeline.

"What we can't control are the periods of time after we make a major document submission to the Ministry [of Health," said Landry, which happens at the end of every stage.

Cost, number of beds still unclear right now

It's unclear right now how many beds the new hospital will have, but Musyj assures the public it will be more than the two hospitals currently have combined.

"It's definitely going to be a lot more than we have now," said Musyj. "They're not going to be crammed in spaces that are not technically meant for patient care that we're having to use now."

Windsor Regional Hospital CEO David Musyj appears in a file photo. (Alex Brockman/CBC)

Cost is also up in the air since the new hospital is years away from construction. The Ministry of Health pegged the price tag at more than $1 billion, while Windsor Regional Hospital has previously estimated the cost to be around $2 billion, Musyj said.

"We don't know what it is. We haven't gone to market," said Musyj, hinting at the stage in the process when firms will bid on the project.


Jason Viau


Jason Viau is reporter for CBC News based in Windsor, Ont. He has an interest in telling stories related to accountability, policing, court, crime and municipal affairs. You can email story ideas and tips to


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