Manitoba looks to get rid of its COVID-19 visitation pods

Less than three years after unveiling makeshift COVID-19 visiting pods for care homes—a project that cost Manitobans around $24 million—the province is looking for somebody to take them off its hands.

The province revealed its new outdoor all-season visitation shelters made out of repurposed single-use shipping containers in September 2020. At the time, the shelters were created to allow for residents of personal care homes to visit with loved ones amid the pandemic and public health orders.

Now the province is looking to get rid of them.

“I think what we’re really doing is we’re asking Manitobans to be creative,” James Teitsma, the minister of consumer protection and government services.

In an expression of interest posted last week, the province said it has 105 of these visitation shelters across Manitoba that it is planning to decommission and remove.

As for what happens after the visitation pods are removed, the province says there are three options: donate them, auction them off to the highest bidder, or destroy them for scraps.

Whatever the option, the respondent will be responsible for the costs to remove the shelters.

“The province hopes Manitobans will come up with creative ways to put these shelters to good use in Manitoba,” a spokesperson for the province said in a prepared statement.

The spokesperson told CTV News the personal care homes do have the option to keep the visitation pods on the condition they accept full responsibility to confirm with the building codes and legislation.

When the visitation pods were first unveiled, the province pegged the total cost at $17.9 million for 90 shelters. However, Teitsma told CTV News the construction of the containers ended up being around $24 million.

“I think you’ve got to remember right, this was during the pandemic. Supply chains were severely challenged. It was a challenging time,” Teitsma said.

He said right now, the province’s top priority is finding groups the visitation shelters can be donated to.

“The thinking there is that if there’s a good cause that we can be supportive of, then we want to use these things in a way that’s going to benefit all Manitobans,” he told CTV News.

Marion Willis, the director of St. Boniface Street Links, says the shelters are something the organization would be interested in, but says actually purchasing them and installing them is more complicated.

“Being offered the shipping containers for free as a donation, that’s great. But, do those containers actually meet building codes in terms of occupancy? What would it cost to bring them up to the building code? What’s the cost associated with renovating or retrofitting those with bathrooms and kitchens?” she said. “I can’t imagine the expense of actually securing those containers, because I think it would be up to the organization to retrieve those and they are scattered throughout the city, so that would be an interesting project, and costly.”

Willis adds the organization would have to put together a feasibility study, as well as find land to put the containers on before committing to any shelter project.

The submissions deadline for the province’s expression of interest is March 21, 2023.

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