Niagara Health’s St. Catharines Site has never had an outbreak of any airborne illness.
The hospital, which opened in 2013, was designed and built after the 2003 SARS pandemic, so attention was given to managing airflow and ensuring the same air, breathed by someone with a severe contagious illness, wasn’t circulated throughout the rest of the building.
Two portable air scrubbers, purchased by the Niagara Health Foundation with a grant of more than $37,400 from the David S. Howes Fund, helped ensure the hospital’s track record during the COVID-19 pandemic. The units, each the size of a foot stool, could be moved from room to room, even hospital to hospital within the Niagara Health system, to help patients and staff breathe easier by living up to their name.
They cleared the air of the potentially deadly COVID-19 virus from rooms where an infected person recovered in isolation from surgery or dealt with another medical issue. And they came in particularly handy during the worst of the Omicron variant when infections skyrocketed.
“It’s good for the patient and good for staff, and really good for the other patients because you’re protecting them from airborne viruses,” said Pamela Shanks, Niagara Health Foundation vice-president of development.
The scrubbers were among a list of equipment the health system needed, including additional beds and ventilators, during the height of the pandemic. Once the pandemic is history, however, they will continue to be used to keep people safe and healthy while in hospital, including against flu strains.
“The Niagara Community Foundation grant was a huge benefit,” Shanks said. “(The scrubbers) were critical to the fight against COVID-19. We’re still using them and we’ll use them going forward.”