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COVID-19: Hospital announcement likely this weekend, Sault mayor says

Will we be the next Ontario community to announce a pop-up hospital to free space for pandemic patients?
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Measures to counter an anticipated surge of COVID-19 cases will be announced soon, most likely this weekend, three members of Sault Ste. Marie's Emergency Management Planning Committee tell SooToday.

Mayor Christian Provenzano and Ward 4 Couns. Marchy Bruni and Rick Niro have been meeting by teleconference each Tuesday since March 17 with representatives of fire, police, ambulance, public health, hospital, social services and other agencies and city departments.

On coronavirus surge planning, the mayor told us "a lot of progress was made over the past week."

"I want to recognize the great work Sault Area Hospital is doing on internal and external surge planning," Provenzano said. "We will have the capacity we need if we continue working together."

Coun. Bruni said the hospital disclosed at this week's meeting that it had freed 100 beds for novel coronavirus patients.

Another Emergency Management Planning Committee member, Ward 5 Coun. Corey Gardi, has been pushing for temporary offsite hospital space to ensure capacity to handle any surge in COVID-19 cases.

This past week, tents were erected near Sault Area Hospital's emergency entrance in anticipation of higher volumes of patients with the novel coronavirus.

Six days ago, Brandy Sharp Young, the hospital's manager of communications, said Sault Area Hospital would be making a statement about its COVID-19 planning "over the next couple of days."

On Wednesday, Sharp Young said: "We will have messaging out by tomorrow."

After neither commitment was met, the hospital stopped responding to inquiries about its intentions.

Sault Area Hospital has said many of its clinics and outpatient services are being moved to offsite venues, and plans are being developed to "house the hospital and its services in an emergency situation."

On Friday, London Health Sciences Centre announced it's converting trade show space at the Western Fair Agriplex into a COVID-19 field hospital.

Manitoulin Health Centre is planning a 30-bed pop-up hospital at the NEMI Recreation Centre in Little Current, if needed.

Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre, home of the Ontario Hockey League's Owen Sound Attack, is being turned into a 75-bed field hospital.

Other Ontario communities planning makeshift pandemic field hospitals include Burlington and Windsor.

Last week, the provincial government earmarked $341 million to prepare for COVID-19 with 1,000 new acute care beds and 500 critical care beds, as well as assessment centres.