Supportive care tent proposed for recovering COVID-19 patients; M’Chigeeng explores funding options

M’Chigeeng is hopeing to acquire a Blu-Med tent, similar to the one found in Wiikwemkoong, seen above, to be used as a supportive care centre and located near the field hospital in Little Current.

LITTLE CURRENT – M’Chigeeng First Nation plans to submit an application to Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) to fund a Blu-Med tent, a negative-pressure, all-weather temporary building to house a supportive care centre for less-severe COVID-19 patients next to the field hospital at the Little Current-Howland Recreation Centre.

M’Chigeeng Health Services executive director Roger Beaudin told The Expositor that the plans were in very early stages and that his team was arranging a meeting with ISC about the funding. He said further details would be available following those discussions.

Council for the Northeast Town, which owns the rec centre, gave conditional approval at an August 18 meeting to place the tent outdoors at the above site, provided it does not interfere with any traffic flow or operations there.

Island communities have considered creating their own supportive care centres throughout the pandemic, independent of Manitoulin Health Centre (MHC), which are designed to be a step-down from the tiered Island COVID-19 care model.

Manitoulin’s plan for a future wave of the virus involves treating the most severe patients at the Little Current hospital site, followed by less-acute patients at the field hospital and then transferring the strongest patients to community-run supportive care facilities such as this M’Chigeeng-led tent for basic care.

MHC vice-president of corporate support services and CFO Tim Vine told The Expositor that co-locating the field hospital and supportive care centre would achieve better operational efficiency and allow the teams to share both human and physical resources.

“One of the things we’ve discovered through all our planning and thinking is health human resources is the main limiting factor (on Manitoulin). If we can combine and concentrate and better use what health human resources we have on the Island, we’ll be better able to respond together,” said Mr. Vine.

Earlier iterations of M’Chigeeng’s plan to host a supportive care centre included help from MHC as its supply truck made daily trips through the community and could drop off supplies. However, service sharing is made much easier and more efficient under the side-by-side model.

Food services have been a major consideration. MHC plans to use the commercial kitchen at the rec centre to prepare meals for field hospital patients; adding roughly 10 more meals for the supportive care centre’s full capacity is a nominal increase to the process.

Mr. Vine said the lack of active cases on Manitoulin have brought the blessing of time; the partners can fine-tune the implementation of the Blu-Med tent while they wait for funding news from the feds. Even if cases should increase, there is currently ample bed capacity at both the field hospital and the main hospital site.

“We’ve been really heartened by the community and the Island-wide response with how well various municipalities and First Nations have been working together and working with (MHC),” said Mr. Vine, adding that the M’Chigeeng-led supportive care facility would be open to all Islanders.

If approved for ISC funding, M’Chigeeng would not be the first Island community to procure a Blu-Med tent. Wiikwemkoong set up its own on May 16 at Wasse-Abin Wikwemikong High School’s parking lot, led by Naandwechige Gamig Wikwemikong Health Centre. It presently operates as a COVID-19 testing site. 

Naandwechige-Gamig executive director Mary Jo Wabano did not respond to multiple requests for comment by press time Monday about whether or not that community had plans to repurpose the tent for its own supportive care centre should the need arise. Mr. Vine speculated that Wiikwemkoong would not co-locate any possible supportive care facility to Little Current given the wide geography within its own territory.

No other communities have approached MHC yet about launching their own supportive care facilities and co-locating them at the field hospital.

Dr. Mike Bedard, who is the physician lead for the field hospital and also plans to help at the supportive care centre in the Assiginack Arena, said his family health team intends to run its facility in Manitowaning as long as it can keep up with the staffing requirements. 

It contains four beds and four oxygen concentrators, all of which could be relocated to the field hospital property relatively easily if the Assiginack staff should become overwhelmed.