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More field hospitals could be coming to cope with COVID-19

CALGARY (CityNews) – Field hospital. The words conjure images of warzones, but they’re being built in response to COVID-19 including right here in Calgary, drawing mixed reactions from those on the front lines.

“The idea of bringing in more tents demonstrates a lot of forward-thinking and preparedness,” said Emergency Medicine Physician, Eddy Lang.

“When we’re having trouble getting patients admitted upstairs into the hospital because there’s a limit to the number of available beds, they often stay in that unit.”

Others like physician Joe Vipond at Rockyview General Hospital argue preventative measures should be top of mind.

“It’s kind of like putting the cart before the horse. Let’s stop the increase in cases, let’s stop the hospitalizations, the ICU admissions by actually putting in the preventive policy. – It’s kind of like giving antibiotics for sexually transmitted diseases instead of using a condom, to use a bad analogy.”

WATCH: Alberta asking Red Cross about field hospitals, vaccine rollout coming January

It’s not just about space as Vipond explains, every COVID patient requires a nurse, as well as respiratory therapists and intensive care physicians.

“I don’t understand how the military is going to provide those, generally military physicians. There’s probably a very small number of their staff that would be qualified to run these types of facilities.

Field hospitals have shown up in Europe and the United States with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urging hospitals to build more if necessary.

“Currently the rate of hospitalization in the US, which is arguably just a disaster when it comes to COVID, is 300 admissions per one million population,” said Lang. “We’re well below that, we’re around 100 admissions per 100 million population.”

However some physicians, like Vipond, still wonder why field hospitals are even being discussed.

“Why are we planning for field hospitals when we don’t have a national COVID app, we don’t have a mask mandate, we don’t have the same restrictions that every other jurisdiction has put in place except for those Libertarian jurisdictions that are similar to our own?”

A report issued earlier this week suggested the Alberta government is talking with the Canadian Red Cross and the feds about the possibility of building a field hospital if necessary.

When asked the report, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said some conversations are happening but building these units are not in the government’s emergency COVID plans as they’re already prepared to add more acute care and ICU beds in the coming weeks.