WINDSOR, ONT. -- Windsor Regional Hospital is set to begin transferring some local patients to other southwestern Ontario hospitals in order to create bed capacity at the two Windsor campuses.

WRH hospital officials say it is due to a high volume of patients who are positive with COVID-19 and required admission to hospital.

As of Monday, WRH has 74 in-patients admitted to hospital who have tested positive for COVID-19, much higher than the peak volume of confirmed COVID-19 patients seen on any single day during the first wave last May (27 patients).

About 15 to 20 of these patients require treatment in critical care units, which have reached capacity with many non-COVID-19 patients.

Internally, the hospital has maximized their acute care bed capacity between the two campuses taking into account all these factors as part of their surge capacity and pandemic planning.

“However, despite these additional beds, we continue to see capacity pressures and a lack of bed space to treat patients safely with the staffing resources and physical space available,” according to a WRH news release.

WRH anticipates as many as 20 patients may require transfer this week to partners at Chatham-Kent Health Alliance and Bluewater Health in Sarnia.

Hospital officials say capacity is constrained by high volumes of COVID-19 patients because these individuals need to be isolated and therefore cannot safely share rooms with non-COVID patients in hospital.

Guidance provided by Ontario Health last June called for hospitals to “maximize the number of private and semi-private rooms with dedicated washrooms, using four-bed ward rooms as semi-private rooms when possible, ensuring a two-meter distance between patient beds and the use of alternative spaces for beds in current hospital facilities.”

“These guidance measures are unattainable at current patient volumes given that only 29 per cent of all inpatient beds at Met Campus and 16 per cent of all inpatient beds at Ouellette Campus are in private rooms. Also, in the vast majority of our semi-private or ward rooms, a two meter distance between beds in our aging facilities is not possible,” said the WRH statement.

As indicated in an internal assessment conducted in July, when the Ontario Health recommendations for in-patient placement are applied at WRH, our overall bed capacity is reduced by 21 per cent (118 beds). Also, on any given day they have 150 patients in isolation or private rooms that once were semi or ward rooms.

WRH has created a video showing the impact COVID-19 has had on their care for patients.

“Our aging infrastructure cannot accommodate safe, quality care for all of our patients given the recent surge in COVID-19 patients requiring admission to hospital and requiring isolation protocols,” said Karen Riddell, WRH Chief Nursing Executive and Chief Operating Officer.

“We know transferring patients out of Windsor-Essex is not ideal and we understand this places challenges on patients and their loved ones. We hope to keep these transfers to a minimum. However, we need to prioritize the safety of our patients and the ability of our regional hospital system to provide adequate treatment and care.”

WRH is be working with the Chatham and Sarnia hospitals on determining the most appropriate acute care patients to transfer, notify families and work with Essex-Windsor EMS on safely transport.

At the same time, Windsor Regional Hospital says they continues to work with Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare on transferring appropriate patients requiring non-acute care.

The patients who will be transferred to Bluewater Health, CKHA and HDGH are not appropriate for care at the field hospital.

On Dec. 31, Erie Shores Healthcare began to transfer patients to Chatham and HDGH due to their own capacity constraints.