Joseph Brant Hospital’s (JBH) Pandemic Response Unit (PRU), which is the first of its kind in Ontario, is welcoming its first COVID-19 patients this week.
This field hospital is part of a strategy to respond to a heightened need for COVID-19 care as well as increasing pressure on hospital capacity across the Hamilton, Niagara, Haldimand, Norfolk, Brant and Burlington (HNHBB) region.
“The Pandemic Response Unit 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,” said Eric Vandewall, President and CEO of Joseph Brant Hospital (JBH).
Hospitals will begin identifying and working with patients who have progressed in their care and could receive care in the PRU, a state-of-the-art, all-season field hospital located on JBH grounds this week.
“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, Chief of Staff at Joseph Brant Hospital.
“Transitioning these individuals to the PRU allows them to complete their recovery in an inpatient unit that is specifically designed to provide the type of care they need.”
The healthcare teams working in the PRU include physicians, nurses, patient care assistants, respiratory therapists, physiotherapists, home and community care coordinators and many others.
The PRU will help to minimize potential disruptions to scheduled and community care and is a key component of a regional strategy developed by HNHBB hospitals to meet the higher demand for COVID-19 care amid the second wave.
The strategy is being led by the HNHBB Hospital Incident Management Structure (IMS) team, which includes representation from all regional hospitals, including CEOs and clinical leadership.
The PRU serves as a regional resource that can receive patients from four hospitals that are providing acute COVID-19 care including Joseph Brant Hospital, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, Hamilton Health Sciences (Hamilton General Hospital) and Niagara Health, under the plan.
Transfers will be determined based on care needs and in consultation with patients and their families.
“Our healthcare system is being stretched to its limits,” says 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.”
JBH’s Infection Prevention and Control team was closely involved in the design of the PRU, leveraging current research and best practices in the care of COVID-19 patients.
The PRU features a filtered, negative pressure ventilation system that allows treatments that may generate aerosols to be safely performed.
Additionally, it has durable, easy-to-disinfect surfaces and other features to provide a comfortable environment for patients, such as natural light, portable laptop tables and free WiFi to connect with their loved ones during their stay.
After the Ontario government requested that hospitals implement capacity plans at their sites, the 16,000 square-foot structure was built in April 2020 as a collaboration amongst Joseph Brant Hospital, community-based health care providers, the City of Burlington and Halton Region.