Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAY.com



With chilling news about pandemic predictions on the eve of a vaccine, Simcoe-Muskoka’s go-to health care centre opened a parking lot medical army surgical hospital as the coronavirus goes from worse to worst.

And they prepare for “second and future waves.”

As Simcoe-Muskoka cases surged to 39 today, Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) cut the ribbon on its Regional Pandemic Response Unit (PRU).

The 70-bed, 8,250 square-foot modular structure is a year-round, fully-functioning field hospital located in RVH’s parking lot and connected to the health centre by an enclosed walkway.

Professionally-staffed and fully-equipped, the unit is a regional asset for partner hospitals facing capacity challenges, including, Colllingwood General and Marine, Georgian Bay General Hospital, Muskoka Algonquin Health, Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital and Stevenson Memorial Hospital, they say in a release.

“RVH’s mantra throughout this pandemic has been ‘safety first and prepare for the worst’,” says Janice Skot, RVH president and CEO. “Rest assured, RVH is very well-trained and well-prepared to respond to this pandemic. We have the staff and supplies;   equipment and expertise; and now, the bed capacity to care for patients from across the region.”

The PRU was built at the direction and support of the provincial government which recently provided $12.3 million in new operational funding. The funding will allow RVH to open 99 additional beds, including 70 in the PRU.

Said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health: “Together, we are ensuring that our healthcare system is able to respond to the second and future waves of COVID-19. Thank you to the frontline health care heroes at Royal Victoria for your unwavering compassion and dedication to care and protect patients and the community.”

RVH notes the PRU is not a unit for COVID patients. The patients who will be cared for in the unit are well defined — medically stable with an estimated stay of three to five days. The PRU will open safely in phases, beginning late-November as needs of the community dictate.

“As our hospitals ramp-up surgeries and procedures that were paused in mid-March, our occupancy rates are increasing. Meanwhile, we are facing a perfect storm; a collision between Wave 2 of the pandemic and the looming flu season which could significantly stress the healthcare system,” says Gail Hunt, president and CEO, Georgian Bay General Hospital. “Having these beds available means our patients can finish their recovery in a fully-functioning field hospital and then safely return to their home communities when ready.”

The PRU is one of only three such units in the province. It is outfitted with modular walls for privacy and head walls with suction and oxygen, a call bell system for patient assistance, interprofessional stations and washrooms. The unit itself is very sturdy and can withstand high winds and snow loads. The opening ceremony is available for viewing here and a virtual tour is also available.

“The PRU is an insurance policy in the face of a very uncertain and unpredictable future. As always, RVH is well prepared and ready to work with our regional partners to ensure all residents of the region can get the care they need – close to home,” says Charlotte Wallis, chair RVH Board of directors.

Charlotte Wallis, RVH board chair, centre, cuts the ribbon opening the PRU, with Barrie-Innisfil MPP Andrea Khanjin, left, and RVH president and CEO Janice Skot.

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