The exhibition halls of the West Building of the Vancouver Convention Centre have hosted international media for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, car lovers for the Vancouver International Auto Show, superhero fanatics for Fan Expo, Grey Cup festivals, film and television production sets, and countless trade shows.
As of today, this underground space in the 2009-built portion of the convention centre is now a temporary hospital with 271 beds for non-COVID-19 patient care. This is a province-wide capacity resource equivalent to the total bed capacity of Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver.
- See also:
Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) announced this evening the alternate care site inside the convention centre has been set-up and can be operationalized whenever it is needed.
It will not treat coronavirus patients, but its impact will be the same by allowing lower acuity, non-COVID-19 patients to be relocated to this temporary hospital. This effectively frees up bed space in well-equipped and staffed hospitals for coronavirus cases requiring hospitalization. Moreover, it reduces the likelihood of infection to patients who are not sick with COVID-19.
With over 11,000 elective surgery cancellations and the work that has been done to relocate patients with lower care needs, there is currently significant bed space capacity in BC’s primary hospitals.
In fact, according to provincial health officials today, there are 132 people in hospital in BC for COVID-19, including 68 in critical care. These numbers amount to the lowest for hospitalization in the province over the last 10 days.
However, conditions can change quickly in just a matter of days, made evident by the experiences of hospitals in China, Italy, Spain, and increasingly New York City.
This is why health authorities are urging the public to take physical distancing and self-isolation seriously, so that the curve can be flattened to a level that does not overwhelm the capacity of the healthcare system. It took over a week to set-up the alternate care site within the convention centre.
“I want to thank all the people who worked so hard to make this a reality,” said BC Health Minister Adrian Dix in a statement. “This is a critical step to ensure that BC is prepared for the worst as we work for the best outcome.”
The West Building’s exhibition halls span a total floor area of 220,500 sq. ft.
The bed spaces have been set-up in a pod format with about 25 patients to a dedicated healthcare team. There are four nursing stations, patient and staff showers and washrooms, oxygen and medical supplies.
When operational, a VCH medical director and operations lead will be present at the site to oversee transfers, provide medical oversight and support an interdisciplinary healthcare team that includes doctors, nurses, care aides, and other clinical and non-clinical care providers.
The field hospital also has BC’s Mobile Medical Unit for patients with a higher care need on-site prior to being transferred to a regional hospital.
This facility is not for walk-in patients, as patients will be transferred directly from a referring hospital if it is needed.
If necessary, the bed capacity can be increased within this cavernous space and potentially the 91,200 sq. ft. of exhibition hall space at the East Building, under the sails of Canada Place.
The convention centre is currently not in use due to the provincial government’s restrictions on gatherings; all events for the foreseeable future at the convention centre will not proceed until further notice. The provincial government owns the convention centre, which is operated by Pavco, the crown corporation that also manages BC Place Stadium.
In other COVID-19 hotspots around the world, convention centres and other open indoor facilities have been quickly converted into temporary hospitals.
Temporary hospitals within convention centres in Madrid and London can be expanded to hold up to 4,000 beds and 5,500 beds, respectively, for coronavirus patients, including those in need of critical care.
In the United States, FEMA has turned the exhibition hall of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan into a 1,000-bed temporary hospital for non-coronavirus patients. The plan is to build similar additional overflow field hospitals in each of New York City’s boroughs.
In New Orleans, the coronavirus overflow field hospital within Ernest N. Morial Convention Center’s exhibition hall has about 1,000 beds.
And in Seattle, the US military set-up a 248-bed field hospital in the exhibition hall at the CenturyLink Field Event Center. But on Wednesday, the Washington State government ordered to have the field hospital dismantled and returned to the federal government for use in states in worse shape. The state was once considered the ground zero of COVID-19 in the US, but in recent weeks its curve has flattened considerably as a result of physical distancing, self-isolation, and heightened testing measures.