Lambton County’s main hospital system, Bluewater Health, based in Sarnia, is admitting patients from outside the region to to help with capacity issues brought on by COVID-19.

General inpatients from Windsor Regional Hospital, along with hospitals in Chatham-Kent and Leamington, are being transferred to Bluewater Health over the coming days.

Sarnia resident Greg Jones, who could be found catching his breath outside Bluewater's Sarnia site Wednesday, said he’s happy to share the wealth when it comes to making sure everyone gets cared for.

“You know, the other cities they need to have space for other people to come in for you know heart attack, all your regular stuff, right? So you got to make room, but you know I got no problem with them coming to our hospital here in Sarnia. But it would be nice if they had built better facilities knowing that this was coming.”

Bluewater Health Chief of Staff Dr. Mike Haddad said the hospital has agreed to accept up to 20 patients from the neighbouring jurisdictions.

“We have to walk a fine line. We can manage some case load, some extra case load. At the same time we have to keep some reserved for the community as well.”

When it comes to case counts in Lambton the prognosis doesn’t look so good as of late. According to Haddad, Lambton has a rate of 230 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population. He said that’s second highest in the province, with Windsor-Essex being the highest.

And with cases on the rise in Lambton following the Christmas break, Haddad said the hospital is bracing for a surge of local patients.

“Generally speaking the admissions to the hospital lag behind community cases about one to two weeks, so we have to keep some capacity, at the same time try to help out others as much as we can. So we have surge plans in effect for example to spillover above 100 per cent as needed. Having said that, we still need the help of the community to stem the tide.”

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley continues to express disappointment in rising local case counts, pointing out that just a few weeks ago Lambton was in the green - prevent zone of the province’s COVID-19 response framework. He agrees, however, that regions need to work together to get through the pandemic.

“It is one hospital system across this province. We have to help our fellow Ontarians, our fellow Canadians. And if we can do the other thing, to keep pushing down the number of cases, with the vaccine and just trying to keep getting the message across about - you can get to a better spot, but you've got to be patient, you've got to be optimistic, and you've got to be kind.”

As of Wednesday Bluewater Health said it had fewer than a handful of patients from outside the area, but that number is expected to grow in the coming days.