The University of New Brunswick cut the ribbon on a state-of-the-art research facility at Saint John’s Loch Lomond Villa Monday.
The $420,000 lab provides a simulated long-term care facility environment, with hopes to facilitate research into how viruses like SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, can spread within.
“The lab is designed to mimic a typical double-resident room in a long-term care facility,” says Dr. Rose McCloskey, a UNB nursing and health sciences professor.
From the hallway right down to the lifelike, robotic mannequins that breathe, blink and talk, the space is almost exactly like what you’d find in Loch Lomond Villa itself — but with a large two-way mirror to allow for observation.
Development of the lab was fast-tracked amid the COVID-19 pandemic — a trying time for the long-term care sector.
“It was all new,” says Loch Lomond Villa CEO Cindy Donovan.
“Each day was a new day in regards to what regulations were coming from government, from public health, and how we had to respond to that.”
$200,000 in funding for the lab comes from the federal government’s Canada Foundation for Innovation’s COVID-19 Exceptional Opportunities Fund.
New Brunswick’s Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour chipped in $50K, with the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation contributing $68,565.
Another $50,000 comes from the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation.
Bid Construction, LTD, which worked on constructing the space, also chipped in $50,000.
The construction itself took just over four months after kicking off in January.
Loch Lomond Villa donated 3,600 square feet of its facility for the project, which was built in what used to be an auditorium.
While its inception was born from the COVID-19 pandemic, its potential stretches beyond New Brunswick’s anticipated end of pandemic protocol.
“My belief is COVID is here to stay and we have to learn how to live with COVID,” Donovan says.
“If it’s not COVID it’ll be another virus, so that’s how we’ve tackled it.”
For now, it will primarily be used by McCloskey and other UNB Nursing Science faculty, though she says she hopes to see it used for industry testing in the development of new products as well.
McCloskey says it should yield tangible data in six to 12 months.