The London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) is getting ahead of the game with the construction of London’s first COVID-19 field hospital.
The temporary hospital is a partnership between LHSC, Western Fair District, the City of London, and other community partners.
Located in the Agriplex on the Western Fair Ground, the facility will have 144 beds with the option to expand to 500 if needed.
“The hope for this facility is that we get it to build and ready, but we never use it,” acting LHSC President Neil Johnson said.
“We want to have it ready because if we need it, we will need it quickly.”
Officials estimated the construction will be finished by Thursday or Friday at the latest with an additional seven to 10 days to get it stocked with supplies and all of the equipment required.
The site will treat patients that are recovering from COVID-19 but who are not considered critical. Johnson said those who are critical will not be moved from the hospital to the site.
People who feel sick are still directed to go to regular hospitals first and will only be transferred to the field hospital if and when needed.
“The role is to remove the healthiest ward patients from LHSC so the intensive care unit can move beyond the walls of the ICU into non-traditional parts fo the hospital,” said Dr. Ian Ball, a critical care physician.
Tuesday’s case numbers bring the total number of cases reported by the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) to 150.
As of Tuesday, 28 people were being treated at LHSC facilities, with 10 patients in intensive care: five at University Hospital and five at Victoria Hospital.
Like at other LHSC facilities, visitors are not permitted, but staff say they are looking into virtual options.
Staffing for the site is still being worked out, but Johnson said staff will be potentially from elsewhere in the region or those who have retired.
He added that any staff, retired or not, who do come to work at the facility will receive the proper training and equipment.
Dr. Ball said the plan is to have one doctor, two nurses, and several personnel support workers per team looking after 16 patients for eight hours a day.
The project thus far has cost approximately $750,000, but Johnson said there is still equipment they need to purchase.
The project has come together in only five days, with 43,000 square feet of flooring, a steel frame, and white tarps to create walls. Around 50 to 60 people have worked 16 hours a day in shifts to bring the project to fruition.
If needed, Derek Lall, director of facilities management with LHSC, said they will be able to expand for phases two and three, adding 144 to 150 beds per phase. The Agriplex can house 500 beds, and there is the option to expand to neighbouring builds on the grounds if and when needed.
“We are not only planning for what we have today, but we are trying to plan a week, two weeks, three weeks out,” Johnson said.
There is also a section of the facility for staff to eat and clean up before going home to their families.
Other cities like Burlington and Toronto have started similar sites in preparation for more COVID-19 cases.
“You need to be ready because, by the time you know you need it, it’s a bit late to start setting it up,” Dr. Ball said.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
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