Joseph Brant Hospital’s Pandemic Response Unit (PRU) – the first of its kind built in Ontario – is ready to receive its first COVID-19 patients this week, as part of a strategy to respond to a heightened need for COVID-19 care and 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,” says Eric Vandewall, President and CEO of Joseph Brant Hospital (JBH).
This week, 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.
“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 comprise of physicians, nurses, patient care assistants, respiratory therapists, physiotherapists, home and community care coordinators, and many others.
The PRU is a key component of a regional strategy developed by HNHBB hospitals to meet the rising demand for COVID-19 care during Wave 2, while helping to minimize potential disruptions to scheduled and community care. 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.
Under the plan, the PRU serves as a regional resource that can receive patients from four hospitals that are providing acute COVID-19 care: Joseph Brant Hospital, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, Hamilton Health Sciences (Hamilton General Hospital) and Niagara Health. Any 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.”
The 16,000-square foot structure was constructed in April 2020, after the Ontario government requested that hospitals implement capacity plans at their sites. It was built as a collaboration amongst Joseph Brant Hospital, community-based health care providers, the City of Burlington, and Halton Region.