WINDSOR, ONT. -- Windsor Regional Hospital has reached an agreement with St. Clair College to transform the school’s SportsPlex into a field hospital for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Sportsplex is a stand-alone athletic facility on the main Windsor campus.

Hospital officials say the agreement provides WRH with the additional space it needs to accommodate in case there is a surge of patients with COVID-19.

Through a phased-in approach over the next week, the team will transform the building into an offsite hospital with the capacity to treat up to 100 low acuity patients in the recovery phase of their treatments, including patients recovering from the virus.

“We are preparing for the expected patient influx andcreatingcapacity for Windsor-Essex. This will help address challengesfor hospitals across the province " said David Musyj, President and CEO of Windsor Regional Hospital.“Best case scenario is we do not need to move any patients to the St. Clair College site, but we have to be ready for the worst.”Local hospitals have already increased capacity within the system, with support from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

WRH has created capacity at its two acute care campuses of approximately 250 beds as a result of a low census, through the “pausing” of scheduled surgeries, the support of Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare and the region.

Windsor Regional has also created 109 more beds across both campuses by turning various rooms into patient rooms on each floor of each site.

WRH went from 27 negative pressure rooms to 58 and 49 Level 3 ICU beds to 83. In total, as of today on its two campuses, WRH has approximately 350 additional patient spaces that are currently vacant.

St. Clair College president Patti France said the college is “honoured” to assist Windsor Regional Hospital in its “heroic battle” against this devastating virus.

"Our students and staff have been using the SportsPlex to foster their health for the past half-decade, so it is a natural transition for the community to use it now to restore its health," said France. “We will continue to respond immediately and enthusiastically to anything asked of the college while this challenge confronts our community."

Retired Lieutenant Colonel, Andy Stewart, who has 38 years of experience with the British Army and is now a Major in the Canadian Armed Forces, assisted the hospital in selecting a suitable location for the field hospital.

"I want to indicate to our community that Windsor is in good hands, with this group of very professional and dedicated specialists,” said Stewart.