WINDSOR, ONT. -- Chatham-Kent Health Alliance will be temporarily cancelling all elective and non-urgent procedures at the hospital starting Thursday in response to rising critical care needs in the community.

A news release from CKHA said the “difficult decision” was made in a meeting Monday night with the surgical heads of service and surgical leadership.

Cancer surgeries and procedures will not be cancelled.

“This temporary measure will allow us to respond to the rising urgent critical care needs of both our community and region,” hospital officials said. “These cancellations are likely to continue throughout the weeks that follow until we begin to see a decline in patients requiring critical care beds.”

CKHA said as of Tuesday morning, its occupancy in both the intensive care unit and progressive care unit is at 100 per cent, with nine vented patients now in ICU.

Overall occupancy for medical, surgical and critical care is at 92 per cent (excluding 20 regional beds that are available). The hospital says patient flow is challenged along with maintaining private rooms due to isolation precautions.

"It is our goal to remain around the 90 per cent occupancy levels in our medical, surgical, and critical care beds,” CKHA CEO Lori Marshall said.

CKHA will begin the process of staff redepolyment.

The hospital expects to receive additional patient transfers from Windsor Regional Hospital this week as “they deal with their highest number of COVID-19 positive inpatients since the outset of the pandemic.”

Lori Marshall says up to 10 patients from Windsor Regional Hospital could be transferred by Wednesday.

“Any future transfers are really dependent on our bed availability,” she said.

Last week, Erie Shores Health Care began transferring patients to Chatham.

Marshall says they are not critical or COVID patients.

“The 12 patients that came to us would be patients that would be receiving medical or rehab care,” said Marshall.

The hospital currently has five patients with COVID-19, one in intensive care.

“Four of five are residents of Chatham Kent,” Marshall said. “The one individual who is not a resident of Chatham Kent was not part of this transfer.”

As of Monday, WRH has 74 in-patients admitted to hospital who have tested positive for COVID-19.

CKHA says due to isolation protocols and ageing infrastructure at WRH it cannot accommodate safe, quality care for all of the patients.

The hospitals are working together to determine the most appropriate acute care patients to transfer to Chatham.“So somewhere in that range who may or may not have COVID but still require active medical care and are likely expected to be in hospital more than a week. Those are the types of patients that are being transferred out right now,” WRH chief of staff Dr. Wassim Saad said.

He said as many as 20 patients could be transferred this week.

- With files from CTV Windsor's Angelo Aversa