MONTREAL -- The construction of a new building at the Verdun Hospital will add 36 beds as early as this winter, Quebec’s health minister announced on Monday.

The $32-million project will allow the hospital to relocate its hematology-oncology department, which, in the short-term, will help meet the needs imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

When the pandemic first hit Canada, health officials scrambled to contain it by imposing lockdown measures because of the dire situation in countries like Italy – where so many people became infected at once, doctors had to begin “choosing” who to treat. 

In the medium-to-long term, the goal is for care to be safer for immunocompromised oncology patients at the Verdun Hospital. The building will consist of two floors – the first, a hematology-oncology clinic, and the second, 36 individual rooms with toilets. Moving this department to a new building as a specialized care unit will free up other beds in the hospital, the government says. 

Additionally, it says the extra beds will help reduce the occupancy rate of emergency stretchers and will better position the hospital to deal with a potential second wave of COVID-19. 

“One of our government's top priorities is to reduce emergency room wait times, and the delivery of this modular building to the Verdun Hospital will help make progress in this direction,” Health Minister Christian Dube said in a statement on Monday. “We want to offer the best possible health care infrastructure and maintain quality, efficient and safe service offering. This is all the more important in the current context.”