Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, USask’s Merlis Belsher Place was one of two provincial sites to be used as potential pandemic field hospitals. The two field hospitals would serve as an extension of the health care system, with capacity to support approximately 300 to 650 patients combined, in addition to existing hospital capacity. These were intended to care for in-patients recovering from COVID-19, only to be utilized if absolutely necessary.
“We have reached the point in Saskatchewan’s immunization program and Re-Open plan that we can start to decommission field hospitals in the coming weeks, with the intent to return them to their owners for their intended use later this summer,“ said Scott Livingstone, Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) CEO, in a recent article via SHA.
“The creation of these field hospitals were an essential component of our defensive strategy. And while we continue to monitor COVID hospitalizations and ensure surge plans are in place, we believe field hospitals no longer need to be part of those plans, and are very pleased that we never had to use them.”
In April of 2020, USask made the state-of-the-art multipurpose complex available to the SHA to house up to 250 coronavirus patients on an emergency basis, if Saskatoon experienced a sudden surge in COVID-19 cases.
A number of detailed logistical plans went into the planning of the field hospital in the 120,000-square-foot complex, which is home to Huskies hockey and basketball practice facilities with two regulation-sized ice rinks and two full-sized basketball courts, as well as the Ron and Jane Graham Sport Science and Health Centre.
In the story released on June 11, 2021, the SHA thanked USask for its support, and added that the decommissioning process is expected to take about four weeks.