BARRIE, ONT. -- Construction on the new pandemic response unit outside the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre is almost wrapped up, and it could be critical if the virus gets worse.

Currently, hospital beds are at 84 per cent capacity, but if the region sees a spike in COVID cases, it could overwhelm the healthcare system.

Dana Naylor, chief of patient flow at RVH, says an influx of patients could bring the response unit into play.

“RVH has a comprehensive capacity plan that takes into consideration additional capacity to care for patients as part of the second wave,” says Naylor. “It’s our insurance policy in case we’ll need it.“

The unit will not only help RVH with capacity issues but all hospitals across the region.

As cases continue to climb across Simcoe Muskoka, and with flu season around the corner, health officials could get a double dose of patients.

The new response unit would add 70 beds, but Naylor says it’s in no way a COVID unit.

Only those testing negative would be cared for inside the unit, while virus stricken patients would remain inside the main building at RVH.

“At this point today, we don’t require [the unit]; however, we are well prepared to move forward with operational using the regional pandemic response unit should we need it,“ says Naylor.

Meanwhile, Dr. Colin Lee, an associate medical officer with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, says he’s keeping a close eye on the situation.

He says the possibility of a virus surge overwhelming the hospital is always a concern.

“But I do know that our local hospitals have systems in place to adjust as they need to, their hospital services to accommodate surges in general,” says Lee.

RVH does have a capacity plan in the case of an emergency allowing for an additional 120 beds.