Question Period Note: Mobile Health Units for Ontario


Reference number:
Date received:
Jun 21, 2021
Public Services and Procurement Canada
Name of Minister:
Anand, Anita (Hon.)
Title of Minister:
Minister of Public Services and Procurement


Canada continues to be ready to support provinces and territories in their response to COVID. After successfully deploying two Mobile Health Units (MHUs) to Ontario (Sunnybrook Health Sciences and Hamilton Health Sciences), Canada remains ready to answer the call with two additional MHUs ready to deploy.

Suggested Response:

  • The Government is committed to supporting provinces and territories in their battle with COVID-19
    • Due to the significant demands on medical infrastructure, Canada adopted the approach of preparing for the worst-case scenario to ensure that provinces and territories had the supplies and equipment needed when required
    • These federal Mobile Health Units had been purchased in anticipation of such a request and Canada was pleased to work with Ontario in setting up this additional capacity at Sunnybrook and Hamilton
    • The Government continues to engage with the province of Ontario regarding the 2 MHUs deployed to that province in order to identify any areas for improvement for future MHU deployments

If pressed on timing:

  • Mobile Health Units are complex structures designed for providing advanced medical care and require independent electricity, water, and oxygen. Significant work and co-operation is required between Canada, the province, and the local hospital to make the deployment of a MHU a success – something we saw with the Sunnybrook and Hamilton deployments
  • As COVID-19 cases surged in their respective provinces, Quebec, Alberta and Nova Scotia all considered mobile health units as an option to aid in their response but were able to address the need before requiring deployment of the MHUs


A MHU is a fully self-sufficient unit that can provide targeted care for persons with acute respiratory disease and distress. It was designed with the capability of providing a triage area, short stay evaluation area, 2 resuscitation bays, up to an 80 bed in-patient ward, up to a 20 bed Intensive Care Unit (ICU), diagnostic imaging (portable x-ray), laboratory, pharmacy, and a separate low-risk zone which includes central supply and office space. Two firms (Weatherhaven Global Resources Ltd of Coquitlam, BC and SNC-Lavalin PAE Inc. of Ottawa, ON) were contracted to design and deliver Canada’s Mobile Health Units. Both firms have a proven record on complex logistics work.

Integral to the design is a full water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) system of fresh potable water systems, latrines, showers, and hand washing stations. Should electrical hookup or compressed oxygen not be available at the deployment site, power can be provided through generators and oxygen through various O2 generators and concentrators. The self-sufficiency of the unit makes it extremely flexible to be able to deploy where the need is greatest, not just where the utilities exist for its support.

As designing and buying all the components necessary for a fully functioning mobile health unit required significant lead time, procurement was initiated in advance of any request from a province or territory (recognizing that if Canada waited for a request for help from an overwhelmed province or territory, it would be too late to start the development of an MHU at that time).


Two Task Authorization contracts for up to $150M were issued to each of the contractors. This type of contract establishes a maximum expenditure and requires one or more task authorizations in order to actually incur costs. To date, Task Authorizations with an amount totalling approximately $124.85M have been issued to Weatherhaven Global Solutions and approximately $64.22M to SNC-Lavalin PAE. These Task Authorizations are issued based on estimates. As work progresses, it is often determined that actual costs are not as high as expected.

With these authorizations, both contractors have developed designs, organized project management offices, bought medical equipment and consumables and are maintaining readiness for operations which includes doing required maintenance to keep the equipment ready for operations, warehousing of the equipment and structures, etc.

Weatherhaven has one MHU ready for deployment in addition to the two currently up at Sunnybrook and Hamilton. This model is completely self-sufficient and can be used within a host building or independently.

SNC-Lavalin PAE has one MHU solution available for deployment to a building of opportunity. SNC-Lavalin PAE also has procured and stored medical equipment and consumables to supply up to a total of 5 MHUs. Some equipment has already been transferred to PHAC for distribution to provinces -more is being prepared for transfer.

How the contractors were selected

With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the world class medical infrastructure across the world (e.g. Italy and New York City), it became evident that Canada needed to prepare for the worst case scenario. It was apparent that waiting to start development of a MHU when a province or territory declared that they were overwhelmed and needed federal assistance would be too late. Immediate ordering of critical medical equipment and the development of a design for a workable MHU was required. Canada therefore went to two contractors known for their strong logistical capabilities and proven history to carry out this kind of work.

The joint venture SNC-Lavalin PAE Inc. was identified due to their existing and past contracts in providing logistical support for building and maintaining military camps during military deployments (e.g. Kandahar, Afghanistan). SNC-Lavalin PAE is a separate entity that demonstrated they had the capacity to design and supply mobile health units on an urgent basis.

Weatherhaven Global Resources Ltd. was selected because of its existing contract to provide similar types of structures to the Department of National Defence (DND) for mobile headquarters and Weatherhaven’s association with ATCO Ltd. and its strong logistics capability.

Although the 2 firms were competing against each other through a Request for Proposal process, it was decided to award a contract to each to allow different designs, greater capacity and back-up.

Additional Information: