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Metro Vancouver cities identifying facilities for makeshift hospitals and COVID-19 testing sites
VANCOUVER -- The provincial government is calling on British Columbia's cities to offer possible venues for potential expansion of critical medical and logistical infrastructure – and some of Metro Vancouver's biggest cities are already responding with long lists and pledges of support.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announced Thursday morning that he would be making requests for venues that health officials could convert into makeshift hospitals and other pandemic-response facilities, with Vancouver’s convention centres already under consideration.
“Local governments are key partners,” said Farnworth, while announcing more measures for a provincial COVID-19 response plan. “(They’re) being asked to identify and make available any publicly owned facility that may be used for pandemic response, including facilities for self-isolation, medical care and testing.”
CTV News asked Vancouver’s general manager to list just how many of the city’s assets are being considered, and he said they all are.
“It’s all hands on deck and we don’t have a shortage of the physical spaces right now,” said Sadhu Johnston, noting the city’s community centres are already closed to the public and easily repurposed. “The labour side of it is in some ways the challenge for us because many organizations, (their) volunteers may not be able to participate anymore and non-profits are very, very stretched.”
Johnston said a number of property developers have also contacted Vancouver city hall offering up vacant lots for whatever use the city or health officials may require.
Abbotsford is a regional hub for the Fraser Valley, and a spokesperson for that city said any and all facilities required by the province for pandemic-response purposes will be immediately available as they’ve also been closed to the public; administrators are compiling a detailed list of available venues for the province.
The City of Surrey hadn't waited to be called upon to compile a list of civic and private venues available for pandemic response.
“We are continually updating and sharing our sites with the province and (Fraser Health Authority),” wrote Surrey’s general manager of planning and development Jean Lamontagne in a statement.
Sixteen community centres Cloverdale, Fleetwood, Guildford, Newton, Whalley and South Surrey are on the list, alongside a recently-closed rec centre in North Surrey, the Newton and Cloverdale gymnasiums of Kwantlen Polytechnic University, the Best Buy and Bed, Bath and Beyond spaces at Central City, as well as several industrial buildings in the city.
“An inventory of hotel spaces that could be available for emergency and first responders has been compiled as well,” wrote Lamontagne.
The City of Langley sent an email response to CTV News Vancouver’s request asking about their potential contribution, writing: “We are currently reviewing the facilities that can be made available for pandemic response but no decision has been made yet.”
A spokesperson for the City of Coquitlam says the city’s Emergency Operations Centre has already been working to identify facilities, and is refining its list with a clear message for both constituents and the minister of public safety: “Our city stands at the ready to support these orders.”
North Vancouver city and district, West Vancouver, the Township of Langley and Port Coquitlam said they’d only received the request Thursday morning and needed time to compile a list of potential facilities, while Burnaby, New Westminster, Delta and Pitt Meadows did not respond to our request.
The City of Richmond says it’s working closely with the province to identify and provide what’s needed most, and ready to adapt as those need change: “We are all in this together,” the city wrote.
Maple Ridge says its Emergency Operations Planning Team is working on a list as a “priority work item,” while Port Moody said it has not received a ministerial request for assistance, but will respond if it does.
A spokesperson for the City of Chilliwack was tight-lipped about that community’s contribution:
“Last week, the City of Chilliwack pro-actively started compiling a list of facilities that could be made available for pandemic response,” wrote Jamie Legatt in an email. “That information will be shared with the provincial government and Fraser Health. At this point we will not be releasing that information to the public.”