U of A Butterdome to house AHS assessment and treatment centre

Safety top priority as centre opens next week for patients showing symptoms of respiratory illness.


The Universiade Pavilion at the U of A, better known as the Butterdome, will house an Alberta Health Services secondary assessment and treatment centre beginning next week. (Photo: Richard Siemens)

The University of Alberta's Universiade Pavilion, commonly known as the Butterdome, will house an Alberta Health Services (AHS) secondary assessment and treatment centre beginning next week to treat patients who are experiencing symptoms consistent with respiratory or influenza-like illnesses, including but not limited to COVID-19.

The centre is being established to meet the needs of patients who may be referred to an emergency department but not urgently, and patients whose family doctors may not be seeing patients with symptoms at this time, according to AHS.

Patients will only be able to access the centre through appointments referred by Health Link and booked by Public Health. If someone shows up at the centre without an appointment, they will not be allowed in. Instead, they will be told to go back home immediately.

Dominic Cave, the lead physician on setting up the site, said great care has been taken to ensure the safety of clients, staff and the general public.

"It should be noted that COVID-19, like other respiratory viruses such as influenza, is spread by droplet. That means that spread is by contact with contaminated surfaces or close interactions, within six feet," he explained.

He said the medical staff who will necessarily come in close proximity to patients will have full personal protective equipment.

Cave said that upon arrival, patients will answer a targeted questionnaire that will allow AHS staff to triage them. Those needing to see a physician will move to a separate area for assessment. If patients are unwell enough to require review in a hospital, they'll wait in a third area for arrangements to be made.

In addition, all surfaces in patient care areas will be cleaned between patients.

Community safety

To help ensure community safety, the U of A is reserving the Varsity parking lot exclusively for patients of the centre, and has built a ramp from the lot to the service road and entrance of the assessment and treatment centre, according to Andrew Sharman, vice-president of facilities and operations.

"That measure will create a safe distance between patients and community members," said Sharman, who worked closely with AHS to design the configuration.

He added all university staff and students who had a parking permit for the lot have been moved to other parking lots on campus.

AHS will have security staffing the doors to the Butterdome.

Sharman said all passageways connecting other university buildings to the Butterdome have been closed off.

He said AHS contacted the U of A about a week ago about setting up the assessment and treatment centre.

"We're all in this together," said Sharman. "This is part of the U of A's effort to fight this pandemic and hopefully will alleviate some pressure on the health-care system, especially as it moves towards its peak treatment and demand period."


The goal, according to AHS, is to be able to provide short-term care and advice to patients who have been referred to the centre, and make sure they continue to stay away from clinics and hospitals.

It will be a place for patients to get short-term care or advice and go back home and continue to self-isolate.

The centre will be open 16 hours a day and will be capable of treating 30 patients a day.