Black Diamond Group has received more than 100 requests over the past two weeks to set up field hospitals and other temporary structures needed for the COVID-19 pandemic, in an April 5, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Work camp operator filling need for COVID-19 field hospitals, testing centres

Requests from jurisdictions in Canada and the U.S.

CALGARY — A Calgary company says it has received more than 100 requests over the past two weeks to set up field hospitals, quarantine accommodations, testing centres and other temporary structures needed for the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve been getting requests from all jurisdictions in Canada as well as the U.S.,” said Black Diamond Group CEO Trevor Haynes.

One of Black Diamond’s main lines of business is workforce housing in remote locations for natural gas, pipeline, forestry, mining and other industries. It also provides modular trailers that can be used in a variety of ways, such as temporary classrooms or offices.

The offerings have been well-suited for the current crisis and have kept it busy at a time when other businesses, particularly oil and gas, have slowed.

Of the roughly 100 requests it’s received, Black Diamond has been able to move on almost half so far.

It already has all of the trailers and equipment on hand, which it rents out on a monthly basis.

One typical single-wide trailer unit costs a few hundred dollars a month, not including add-ons like handwashing stations or furniture. Multiple trailers are often attached together to create bigger buildings that can sometimes be two or three storeys high.

Haynes said it can take just a couple of days to transport and set up basic trailers outside a hospital or health care centre for COVID-19 testing or screening, helping to avoid crowding inside.

“It’s just a matter of relocating them to that site and then getting them connected together and powered up.”

Black Diamond has in the past put together temporary medical facilities on U.S. military bases while existing hospitals were being refurbished.

Now, it’s able to set up such a medical building surrounded by temporary living quarters for doctors and nurses as well as quarantine accommodations for patients.

“You can essentially create a field hospital based on the various components that we have in our fleet of assets,” said Haynes.

A set-up like that would take about seven to 10 days to put together and accommodate 500 to 1,000 people.

Most requests for COVID-19-specific uses are from public health authorities, but Black Diamond has also been talking to U.S. prisons and military installations.

Private companies that provide essential services, such as power, are also asking for temporary buildings to allow for more physical distancing in break rooms, Haynes added.

Black Diamond has experience providing temporary structures to relief workers after natural disasters, such as a 1,600-person camp in a northern California community that was ravaged by wildfire in 2018.

“It’s a different reason why the facilities are needed, but the exercise and the use of the asset is very similar,” Haynes said.

“The challenges are continuing to have our crews go out in the field and conduct work. We’ve got to make sure we keep them safe.”

The company has the means to provide temporary homeless shelters, but Haynes said existing buildings like empty hotels and convention centres would likely work better.

Black Diamond’s core workforce has remained steady during the COVID-19 crisis, and it can staff up with contractors as needed.

“It’s exciting to have a way that we can help,” said Haynes. “I think our team is really engaged and working hard to be of assistance wherever they can.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 5, 2020.

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