Moncton eyes Coliseum complex as makeshift hospital if pandemic gets worse

Moncton's Coliseum complex is being eyed as a potential coronavirus assessment site or makeshift hospital if the pandemic gets worse, city officials say. 

The city's fire chief has toured the 125,000-square-foot facility off Killam Drive several times with health officials, including again on Monday afternoon to determine what supplies could be required. 

So far, the location isn't required.

"I hope that we don't need that," Conrad Landry, who also is the city's emergency measures director, told city councillors Monday. "I hope that we're overreacting, but I'd rather overreact than under react." 

Landry wasn't available for an interview after the tour. He told councillors during an afternoon committee meeting that the tour was with Dr. Ken Gillespie, chief of staff at the Moncton Hospital.

A spokesperson for Horizon Health Network, which operates the Moncton Hospital, wasn't able to provide further information about the tour Monday.

Kate Letterick/CBC News

Last week, Gillespie told reporters that Horizon believes it has "adequate" supplies of equipment for the pandemic. 

He said the health network was to examine how it could lay out an assessment centre or makeshift hospital, and what equipment would be required to do so. 

The complex has three large exhibition halls attached to the 7,200-seat Coliseum arena, along with meeting rooms and a restaurant. 

When the downtown Avenir Centre opened, the city transitioned to using the venue for trade shows. But those events have been cancelled. 

Landry's update was part of a broader update for Moncton councillors about various steps the city has taken in response to the pandemic, including limiting the number of people who can board a Codiac Transpo bus at one time and closing city facilities to the public. 

The regularly scheduled committee meeting had only one topic: the pandemic. The meeting took place with only the mayor and several staff members present in a City Hall boardroom. Other council members and media attended via video conference.

It was only the second time that video conferencing had been used. The first was last week, when only two members of council were in the chamber and the rest took part electronically.

City of Moncton

Landry noted that with the province's declaration of a state of emergency, Codiac Regional RCMP are empowered to fine or arrest people found to be violating health-related orders. 

"They do have the power right now," Landry said. 

He indicated there were already weddings or other events cancelled or with reduced attendance as a result of provincial intervention. 

There are 17 people in the province with COVID-19.

The province has enacted strict measures to try to limit its spread, in part to reduce the potential strain on New Brunswick's health system.