LONDON, ONT. -- It’s not a comfortable topic to speak of, or think of for that matter, but when preparing for fallout of COVID-19, London Health Sciences Centre leaders reached out to colleagues in countries that had been hit hard by the pandemic and were given stark advice.

LHSC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Adam Dukelow says what he heard from colleagues in other countries was to be ready for anything.

"Whatever you think you need to prepare, you’re not prepared for what’s coming your way - and that was coming out of Italy and some of the other countries that were being hit.”

Not knowing how effective physical distancing measure would be, the plan was to prepare for the absolute worst-case scenario.

And so refrigeration trucks were brought in and parked outside of the field hospital at the Western Fair Agriplex.

Dukelow explains, "You get into a pandemic and the number of deaths increases dramatically, normal circumstances body holding capacity won’t be enough. If you have the time to do that, and fortunately we had the time to do that, [make] extra space to store bodies safely.”

The field hospital is another aspect of that preparedness, and while Dukelow is happy that it hasn’t been needed, with so much still unknown having it ready is crucial to dealing with a spike in cases.

“Right now it’s standing ready. We’re not using it for critical care, but it’s ready to go if we do need to.”

As the curve flattens and eventually decreases, plans to re-introduce non critical care to the hospital are being drawn up, but it’s unknown when services like cancer care or elective surgeries might return.

“We’re working with the province, and they said don’t increase anything right now, but as we have kind of flattened the curve at this point in time, start to get prepared to do that in a methodical and incremental way," Dukelow says.

He adds that the next two weeks will be critical for the long-term care homes, as well as testing, which will have to be increased before more focused isolation can be implemented.