Alternate non-COVID medical care site at Vancouver Convention Centre to be operational by April 8

Decision to actually start using facility will be up to provincial health authorities

The alternate medical care site that is being set up at the Vancouver Convention Centre to take care of non-COVID patients displaced by victims of the outbreak will be operational by April 8, officials said Thursday.

According to Ross Brown, director of the COVID-19 Regional Emergency Operations Centre at Vancouver Coastal Health, the site will have a scalable capacity of up to 271 beds, and will occupy exhibition halls A, B, and C. Brown stressed that this facility is a province-wide resource, which allows any B.C. hospital who need their space to treat COVID-19 patients to send their non-COVID patients to sites like the Vancouver Convention Centre.

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While the site will be set up by April 8, Brown said the decision to actually start using the facility will be up to provincial health authorities - depending on the progress of the COVID-19 outbreak in B.C.

“We’ll be open for business when required,” Brown said, adding officials will be following the situation of province-wide medical care capacity closely. “… While we continue to be cautiously optimistic that we are flattening the curve, this is to build capacity - just in case.”

Brown noted that access to the alternate medical care site is not open to the public; patients must be referred by another hospital. He identified patients such as geriatric with non-COVID pneumonia and not requiring intensive care as one example of the type of patients that may be referred to the alternate care site.

That means that patients seeking care will continue to go to existing hospital emergency wards for care, and the proper cases will be assessed. Those requiring hospital stay but not intensive care can then be transferred to the site if the ER handling the case is overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients.

A mobile medical unit will be at the Convention Centre at all times to transfer patients who suddenly require intensive care to an area hospital, Brown added.

As for visitation, Brown said the initial set-up is the same as other hospitals - that visits will be limited to those visiting patients on compassionate or end-of-life care. He added that, as of right now, there are no plans to add the convention space at nearby Canada Place into the medical care flex-capacity discussion.

“We are not seeing worst case scenario on the COVID-19 situation as we are seeing in some other countries,” Brown said. “But if we do, want to reassure the public that we’re prepared.”

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