A question we’ve been asked a lot lately is ‘will the new St. Paul’s Hospital be designed for a pandemic?’ Yes, it will. Long before COVID-19 impacted everyone everywhere we were designing the new hospital to be pandemic-ready. Even though construction begins in as little as six months, we still have time to apply some COVID-19 lessons learned and will be asking for more design input starting this fall.

Fingers crossed it’s a long time until we see another COVID but when we do — we’ll be ready. Here are the Top 10 ways, or check out this Pandemic-Ready Fact Sheet for even more!

  1. 100% of inpatient rooms will be single-patient, compared to just 15% today, each with a private washroom for the patient, a hand-washing sink for staff and family to use, plus many will have in-room bedpan cleaners.

  2. There will be over 100 negative pressure isolation rooms for suspected or infected patients, compared to 12 today (that’s about eight times more). Each room has a ventilation (HVAC) system that can be isolated so its air intake and exhaust are separate from other areas which stops airborne germs from escaping into other hospital areas. Many will have a smaller ‘anteroom’ attached where staff can put on and take off PPE and wash up. Even some of our Scopes and Minor Procedure rooms will have negative pressure capability and three of our ORs will too.

  3. We’ll have 15 Outbreak Control Zones to co-locate infected patients. This is new for St. Paul’s Hospital. Each zone can be isolated and has up to 16 inpatient rooms and spaces. The entire zone’s HVAC system can be switched to negative pressure stopping the re-circulation of airborne germs to other units and floors. Each self-sufficient zone has its own medication room, clean/soiled utility rooms and sterile storage rooms. To keep the zone in negative pressure its entrance has two sets of electronic doors that cannot be opened at the same time, and a space which can be used by staff to don and doff PPE.

  4. We’re adding 115 more beds, including up to 54% more critical care inpatient rooms, for a total of 548 beds. This includes empty ‘flex’ spaces in some areas which can be equipped and put into use when demand warrants.

  5. Most areas will have virtual health technology so our clinicians can talk to each other or their patients using video. This includes all patient rooms, inter-professional team, exam, consult/interview, operating, interventional and Care Team Stations.

  6. Many spaces have been designed with ‘flexibility’ in mind so they can be repurposed in a pandemic. For example, our medical and surgical inpatient rooms will be big enough to be used as intensive care rooms. Our new Primary Care Triage and Access Centre next to Emergency and even the new ambulance garage could serve as on-site testing sites. Plus some of our exam and procedure rooms will be piped with medical gases so, if needed, they can be used for inpatient care.

  7. PPE supplies and other essentials will be stored outside every inpatient room to ensure sterile PPE is handy, and medical units stay clean and organized. And a new equipment depot and improved storage for supplies will allow for ‘just in time’ delivery to units, plus faster removal of soiled equipment for cleaning.

  8. More spaces will allow for physical distancing. We will have more and wider stairways to allow for one-way foot traffic, and more elevators and visitor and family lounges too. The staff lounge in each clinical area is big enough for front-line teams to take breaks on their unit while keeping their distance, rather than changing out of scrubs and heading into the neighbourhood for coffee.

  9. In the Emergency Department treatment spaces will be separated by walls and glass doors rather than curtains to improve both privacy and infection control. And, walls or wall dividers, rather than curtains, will be used to separate patients in our Post-Anesthetic Care Units, Hemodialysis Unit and Infusion Clinic.

  10. There will be almost triple the number of hand-washing sinks. Sinks will be in and outside patient rooms, in all patient care, exam, and procedure rooms, and in public and unit hallways and entrances. This should make BC’s beloved Dr. Bonnie Henry very happy!

Send any questions about our project to

Download the pandemic ready fact sheet here.

Please note: This story is available on the New St. Paul’s Redevelopment' e-newsletter page.

This page last updated Jul 23, 2020 5:38pm PDT