OTTAWA -- John Trickett is no stranger to jumping into action at full-speed and then waiting out a grueling marathon. 

Involved for many years with the set up and administration of the on-site hospital for Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, cancelled this May because of COVID-19, Trickett was able to draw on some of that expertise in getting the COVID-19 Assessment Centre at Brewer Arena up and running in just three short days back in March.

“That was the most miraculous piece, we had a phone call Wednesday morning, or I did, and they said we need to be up and running and taking patients by Friday (March 13),” said Trickett, the Director of the Ottawa Hospital.

“There’s some similarities.  Both need a tremendous amount of work to be done in a short time, so lessons learned I think from both that will benefit each other.  I also had some experience down in Trenton and Cornwall with the Diamond Princess residents coming back to Canada, so it’s all come together quite nicely here.  Very different from where we were on week one. “

Now in early May, over 300 people are regularly streaming in for assessment and testing at the Brewer Assessment Centre.  The command hub is separate, located next door in a school alongside the arena.  A management team there looks after scheduling and logistics.  Trickett says they have had to be constantly prepared to “spin on a dime."

“I think the capacity to meet expectations of the public and the community, change things when we needed to as the criteria was adjusted or public expectations changed or Ottawa Public Health has needed us to has been one of the challenges.  But we’ve met it.”

Trickett says that’s one of the reasons people go into health care in the first place, “they are compassionate. They want to do what is needed.”

That staff, of course, putting themselves at risk every day at Brewer Arena.  And during the first five weeks the centre was operational, those work days ran 12 long hours.  When they need a pause, they head to the break room at the Command Centre next door.  As they sit to eat, or grab a coffee or maybe just breathe, their eyes fall on a wall of homemade drawings and letters.  The wall of kudos as Trickett would say, filled with messages that just keep coming.

“They come in regularly.  The appreciation from the patients who come through that busy environment that’s coping with 300 to 400 people a day.   That we’re still demonstrating the compassion and the excellence in service that people expect to receive and that staff want to give as if everybody was their loved one.  That’s the message I’m hearing consistently even 53 days later.  They’re getting excellent care.  Which is wonderful.“