Ontario hospitals are planning to take up to 12 COVID-19 patients from Saskatchewan by the end of the week, according to Ontario Health.
The move comes after Saskatchewan announced on Monday that COVID patients needed to be transferred because intensive care units in the province couldn't cope with the demand.
Three patients are expected to be transferred on Wednesday and three have already gone, according to a spokesperson from Ontario Health, who said in an email that the situation is fluid and hospitals are ready to receive more patients.
But Marlo Pritchard, president of the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency, would not confirm whether more patients would be transferred out of the province or when.
"At this point in time, there are no specifics I can give you," Pritchard told reporters.
More help needed
He said Saskatchewan was speaking with the federal government to bring in additional assistance.
Pritchard said the province had contracted the air ambulance service Fox Flight, but that they can only move a maximum of three to four patients per day at present.
As of Wednesday, 82 of the 117 patients in Saskatchewan's ICUs had COVID. Since the province only has 116 ICU beds, the health system is already operating beyond capacity.
It's a situation the Saskatchewan Health Authority has been concerned about for weeks.
Derek Miller, commander of the health authority's Emergency Operations Centre, said the situation is so bad that patients are now being put in rooms that used to be storage space. In addition, almost 200 extra staff have been brought in to support intensive care. That number includes bringing in extra critical care nurses that do not normally work in intensive care.
However, there's only so much stretching the health system can do.
"Honestly, the space, the number of physical beds, ventilators, that sort of thing, that is not our limiting factor at this point," Miller said. "Our limitation is really those highly-skilled, trained staff that are needed in order to deliver services."