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A look inside Grey Bruce Health Unit's hockey rink COVID vaccine hub

The health unit's hub model has the potential to administer 4,500 vaccines in a 10-hour shift of five healthcare providers

The Grey Bruce Health Unit (GBHU) has transformed the P&H arena in Hanover into a vaccination hub with the ability to administer 4,500 vaccines every 10 hours with reduced staff and costs.

"A standard arena, through our estimate, dry run, and the smaller-scale operation of the hub can vaccinate 4,000 to 5,000 per day and a shift of 10 hours and that require five vaccinators only, and that is more efficient than any other design I have seen," said Dr. Ian Arra, medical officer of health for GBHU.

Arra was joined by a number of local officials on Friday morning, including Sue Patterson the Mayor of Hanover and Chair of the Grey-Bruce Vaccination task force and Warden of Grey County Selwyn Hicks, to present the hockey hub model to local members of the press. 

Within the hub model, the vaccine is administrated in the same spot that patients work through documentation and recovery. 

"The most important element in the design of this clinic is instead of the patient moving from one spot to the other, we allow the person to go to one spot and all the services will be provided for them there," explained Arra. "The free flow of the doors, the space in the arena and the ventilation system, all of it allow for less risk of transmission of COVID." 

The hockey hub model was also created to reduce the number of staff required. 

According to the GBHU, traditional large volume clinics administer about 1,000 vaccines a day, employing 20 nurses. Conventional smaller vaccine clinics administer 400 vaccines a day, in a shift of eight nurses.

The hockey hub model is capable of administering 4,500 vaccines in a 10-hour shift of five health care providers.

The health unit has also tested process flow times and reports a single vaccinator can administer 90 vaccines per hour. In a typical vaccine clinic, a vaccinator can administer 14 vaccines per hour, according to information provided by GBHU.

Arra added that with the ability to vaccinate everyone quickly, there would be less of a requirement to work through prioritizing the general population. 

The model outlined by GBHU has also been developed to be scalable – both in the number of doses available as well as the size of the arena. 

Arra is hopeful that the concept will catch on in other areas of the province and has been in a contact with a few interested municipalities. 

"Multiple municipalities across the province connected with us to get the blueprint and more information. We do hope that the Prime Minister will invest into sending vaccines here and I'm sure the federal government will be missing out if they don't invest here," Arra said. 

In addition to saving on staff time, Arra said the hockey hub model is also more cost-effective. 

According to GBHU, the hockey hub concept costs about $6,000 per one thousand vaccines; about $1.7 million total for 140,000 population. Large volume clinics cost $26,000 per one thousand or $7.2 million for 140,000 population.

To-date the GBHU has administered 4,606 vaccines, and the health unit ready and waiting for the arrival of more doses.

Arra said he anticipates being able to use the vaccination hub to its full capacity by late March, early April.

"It is not a matter of if, it's a matter of when. The probability of using this tool will increase as we go forward in time. There will be a time at late-March and April when we will have plenty of vaccines in the province. And that's where we are going to be doing the most of the action and this tool will help," Arra said.  

The GBHU will also be establishing two additional hockey hubs in Grey-Bruce, in Owen Sound and Kincardine. Arra said those facilities are expected to begin seeing patients as early as March 5. 

Jennifer Golletz

About the Author: Jennifer Golletz

Jennifer Golletz covers civic matters under the Local Journalism Initative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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