Burlington residents have been voicing their concerns as to why Joseph Brant Hospital’s Pandemic Response Unit (PRU), which is currently serving as a vaccination clinic, has not yet converted to COVID-19 patient care.
In response to these concerns, CEO of Joseph Brant Hospital (JBH), Eric Vandewall, released a statement providing an update on hospital capacity and vaccinations.
“I would like to take the opportunity to address an increasing number of questions we have been receiving from the community with respect to the field hospital located at Joseph Brant Hospital (JBH), known as the Pandemic Response Unit (PRU),” said Vandewall.
Since March 12, 2021, JBH began operating a Halton Region Vaccination Clinic in the PRU as a response to the urgent need to vaccinate as many people in the community as possible as well as protecting vulnerable populations from the COVID-19 virus.
“The PRU’s flexibility in design allowed us to quickly mobilize the PRU to serve this purpose, using our skilled staff onsite to administer the vaccines. To date, we have vaccinated over 16,000 individuals in our community and will continue to immunize prioritized groups established by Halton Region,” continued Vandewall in the statement.
Halton continues to see high numbers of new COVID-19 cases and as of today (May 3), JBH’s capacity is at 91 per cent.
According to Vandewall, JBH is currently caring for 28 patients with COVID-19, 16 of which are in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
Additionally, in recent weeks, the total number of patients both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 in the ICU units has ranged on average from the low 20s to as high as 29.
According to Vandewall, JBH has the capacity to surge to 32 patients in the ICU if necessary.
“Understandably, given the dire situation, we have been asked why we continue to use our PRU as a vaccination clinic and why it is not being used for COVID-19 care to help manage patient overflow in regional hospitals dealing with record numbers of COIVD 19 patients,” said Vandewall.
“I hear you and I understand your concerns. While I do not wish to minimize the seriousness of the situation, I would like to provide further context and explain where we are today.”
Vandewall went on to explain that vaccination is a critical step to reduce the spread of COVID-19 as well as keep people in the community safe.
“We stand ready to mobilize the PRU back to providing patient care within 24 hours if additional bed capacity is required. That decision cannot be made solely by JBH. The decision to open the PRU to care for patients is a decision made at the regional level – at the HNHBB (Hamilton, Niagara, Haldimand, Norfolk, Brant and Burlington) Regional Incident Management System (IMS) table,” he said, adding that the PRU was intended to be used as a “safety valve” when all conventional space in hospitals was “exhausted” across the region.
As hospitals continue to respond to the growing demand for ICU care and more mobile response units are being constructed to help expand capacity, the point of requiring the PRU for patient care has not yet been reached, according to Vandewall.
“In conclusion, please understand that while our PRU is a well-equipped and robust temporary short stay field hospital space, it does not replace conventional inpatient beds in the hospital,” concluded Vandewall, adding that the PRU was designed for individuals who are medically stable, presenting mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms, who require additional supports before they are ready to return home.
“If the decision is made to mobilize the PRU back to providing medical care, we can make that happen in short order, relocating the vaccination clinic to an alternate space onsite. Every day we are working closely with our regional and provincial health partners to monitor the evolving situation, assess risk and determine the need for PRU capacity.”