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Hamilton, Toronto closing field hospitals amid dropping COVID-19 hospitalizations

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Step forward as Sunnybrook hospital begins removal of field hospital' COVID-19: Step forward as Sunnybrook hospital begins removal of field hospital
As the daily COVID-19 count progressively drops, field hospitals, such as the one at Sunnybrook in Toronto, are being dismantled. Kamil Karamali has more. – Jul 7, 2021

Two Ontario field hospitals in Hamilton and Toronto are shutting down as per directions from the Ministry of Health due to declining hospitalizations and ICU rates amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Officials from both Sunnybrook Hospital and Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) were told over a week ago to begin preparations to decommission their Mobile Health Units (MHU) effective immediately.

Hamilton’s unit, set up at a parking lot on Wellington Street just outside of the General hospital at the end of May, was part of an initiative from public health Ontario to handle potential overflow from local and out of region hospitals.

Read more: Ontario soon to have another field hospital as Hamilton site prepares for operation next month

Sunnybrook’s was set up even earlier, in February, to serve patients within the GTA. Both of the parking lot clinics were self-contained and equipped with medical support systems, generators and washrooms.

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Robert Burgess, senior director of emergency preparedness at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, told Global News crews are now in the process of collecting equipment and supplies inside the shelter and relocating them into the main building.

“Sometime around the early part of August, we anticipate that the structural immobilization will begin,” Burgess said.

“So that’s when there’ll be some noticeable changes in the parking lot as tents come down.”

 

Burgess says during the units four months of operation 32 “lower risk” patients were admitted from various hospitals from around the GTA to two larger of ten tents in the parking lot.

“The vast majority of the patients we saw, in fact all 32, were treated within the system and then either discharged or they moved on to the next level of care, like rehabilitation,” Burgess said.

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“It was quite successful in terms of how we managed those patients in a very different environment. So the nurses and clinical staff, they did a great job.”

The Sunnybrook site is expected to be fully down by early September.

HHS spokesperson Wendy Stewart told Global News in e-mail on Monday that the Hamilton site should also be completely down by early September.

Read more: Ontario says a COVID-19 field hospital is expected to take patients late April

The HHS facility had the ability to house up to 80 patients in eight tents, but actually never saw one in less than two months of operation.

In late April, HHS staff told Global News as many as 30 patients a week were being transferred from other regions in Ontario to Hamilton. That number continued as Manitoba grappled with a spike coronavirus cases and hospital capacity issues.

However by June, HHS EVP and chief operating officer Sharon Pierson told staff in a town hall the mobile health unit was not likely to see any patients as cases subsided and the agency begin looking at restarting non-emergency surgeries.

The province is paying costs related to the mobile health units. Overall costs will be known once the sites are fully decommissioned and final invoices are submitted.

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