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Ontario hospitals have been told to ready themselves for patient transfers from outside their regions as COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise.

An Ontario Health memo to hospital CEOs Thursday says current projections show more than 500 critically ill COVID-19 patients in Ontario hospitals by Jan. 24.

It directs hospitals with unoccupied adult intensive care beds to reserve one-third of the space for transfers from hospitals exceeding capacity.

The memo says all hospitals should be ready to accept transfers when directed.

Hospitals are also asked to standardize their critical care admission criteria with the Ontario Critical Care COVID-19 Command Centre.

Medical facilities in areas with community transmission are told to continue non-COVID-19 in-person care "without delay," and prepare plans to defer non-urgent care if necessary.

The memo comes as hospitals in infectious hot spots have postponed surgeries and begun to transfer patients due to the strains of COVID-19.

Windsor Regional Hospital says more than 50 patients had been transferred to other hospitals as of Thursday amid a capacity crunch from record-high COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Toronto hospitals are also transferring some young patients to SickKids hospital to make room for adult COVID-19 patients.

Unity Health Toronto says as of Jan. 7, pediatric patients at St. Joseph's Health Centre may be transferred to SickKids if their physician determines care can be met there.

It says St. Joseph's, William Osler Health System and Humber River Hospital are all working with SickKids.

The effort is expected to continue until COVID-19 patient volumes "return to more reasonable levels."

Unity Health says the system is working to ensure patients get the care they need during the "complex time" of the pandemic's second wave.

 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 8, 2021.