IMPORTANT NOTE: The COVID-19 immunization site at Merlis Belsher Place is by appointment only for eligible Phase One priority residents and cannot accommodate drop-in patients. These appointments are made when the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) contacts those who are eligible.
The field hospital space within Merlis Belsher Place, located on the University of Saskatchewan campus, is the first COVID-19 mass immunization clinic to be set up in Saskatoon.
“We have been using space on the second floor of Merlis Belsher Place to immunize health-care workers since late December,” said Jennifer Cushon, Immunization Section Chief (Saskatoon) and Director, Primary Health Care (Saskatoon). “This expansion into the space created for the field hospital will allow us to move from seeing 456 people a day to at least 1,400 people a day, once we are running mass clinics at full capacity.”
Staff at the clinic are currently immunizing individuals who live in the community who are 70 and older.
“As vaccine supply allows and we complete immunizations for those groups with the highest risk and need, we will follow the provincial plan to move to larger sections of the population, sequenced backwards by age,” said Cushon. “This is just one of the ways Saskatoon residents will be able to access the COVID-19 vaccine as they become eligible. As phase two opens in the spring, additional options will include drive-thru and satellite immunization clinics.”
The immunization clinic will be located on the main floor in the area that was set up as a potential COVID-19 field hospital. The infrastructure of the field hospital remains, and members of the public will receive their immunization in the bays of the space.
“The immunization clinic does not affect our ability to stand up the field hospital, should that be necessary,” explained John Ash, Defensive Chief, Emergency Operations Centre, SHA. “Our trigger for activating the field hospital is currently well below the target, and we monitor it closely. If we hit the trigger point, the Saskatoon field hospital will still be ready to accept patients with two weeks’ notice.”
“We leased this space from the university to strengthen our response to the unknown and fluctuating needs of COVID-19,” said Ash. “Using this infrastructure we’ve created to run a mass immunization clinic is another way to do just that, unless or until the field hospital is needed.”
If the field hospital is required, the mass immunization site would move to another location, and that would be broadly communicated with the public.
There will be a number of other immunization sites in the city of Saskatoon and around the province, including mass immunization sites, drive-thru options, and mobile and community clinics. Overall, the SHA will offer 226 COVID-19 vaccine clinics in 181 communities around the province, not including clinics that will be established in First Nations communities or community options such as pharmacies.
The sequencing for Saskatchewan’s immunization delivery plan is based on ensuring those most at risk receive access to the vaccine first. Currently, this includes priority health-care workers, individuals in all communities who are 70 and older, residents and staff in long-term care and personal care homes, and residents who are 50 and older in remote, northern communities.