Joseph Brant Hospital’s Pandemic Response Unit is gearing up to receive its first COVID-19 patients this week amid escalating infections across the province.
The structure — an all-season field hospital on the Joseph Brant property and the first of its kind in Ontario — is opening in response to the increased need for COVID-19 care and pressure on hospital capacity in Burlington and beyond.
“The Pandemic Response Unit (PRU) was built to ensure that should the need arise, we would have additional bed capacity available to care for COVID-19 patients — and that time is now,” says Eric Vandewall, Joseph Brant president and CEO.
This week, hospitals will begin identifying and working with patients who have progressed in their care and could be transferred to the 73-bed PRU.
The unit can receive patients from four hospitals that are providing acute COVID-19 care: Joseph Brant Hospital, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, Hamilton Health Sciences (Hamilton General Hospital) and Niagara Health. Any transfers will be determined based on care needs and in consultation with patients and their families.
“The Pandemic Response Unit was built to care for COVID-19 patients whose condition has stabilized but require support that cannot be provided at home, such as oxygen therapy and medication, as well as ongoing monitoring of their symptoms and some personal support,” says Dr. Ian Preyra, Joseph Brant chief of staff.
“Transitioning these individuals to the PRU allows them to complete their recovery in an in-patient unit that is specifically designed to provide the type of care they need.”
The health-care teams working in the PRU are comprised of physicians, nurses, patient care assistants, respiratory therapists, physiotherapists, home and community care co-ordinators and more.
“Our health-care system is being stretched to its limits,” said Rob MacIsaac, president and CEO, Hamilton Health Sciences and IMS co-chair. “Opening the Pandemic Response Unit is a necessary step in our continued efforts to preserve critical hospital capacity for the sickest patients. All of the region’s hospitals are working closely together to ensure that care can be delivered safely with limited disruption to patients.”
Joseph Brant Hospital’s infection prevention and control team was involved in the design of the PRU, which has a filtered, negative pressure ventilation system, allowing for treatments that may generate aerosols to be safely performed. It also has surfaces that are easy to disinfect and other features to provide a comfortable environment for patients, like natural light, portable laptop tables and free Wi-Fi to connect with their loved ones.
The 16,000-square foot structure was built last spring after the Ontario government requested that hospitals implement capacity plans at their sites. It was constructed as a collaboration between Joseph Brant Hospital, community-based health-care providers, the City of Burlington and Halton Region.