WINDSOR, ONT. -- There are more COVID-19 positive patients in Windsor Regional Hospital than ever before, according to hospital officials who warn the local health-care system is close to being overwhelmed should cases increase.

Vice president of critical care Karen Riddell says 28 COVID-19 positive patients were admitted to hospital as of Thursday evening for treatment, and 40 more patients were being treated as though they have the virus while officials wait for test results. Staff say the previous high of 27 patients admitted was set last May.

“It’s increasing very rapidly from a hospital perspective,” says Riddell.

According to Riddell, both campuses are out of ICU beds and are running at 90 per cent total capacity.

Windsor Regional Hospital chief of staff Dr. Wassim Saad says something has to change soon, worried a potential influx of patients over the next couple weeks could inundate the healthcare system.

“If nothing changes in the community then the healthcare system in Windsor-Essex will be under water. There’s no question about it,” says Saad.

“We’ve been trying to sound the alarm for a while now and now our ICU’s are over capacity, our hospital is at capacity, something has to change. We are not going to be able to handle this if something doesn’t change in the community, and with how people handle public health measures.”

Saad agrees with moving the region into the ‘Grey-Lockdown’ level of the province's COVID-19 response framework.

"If you shut it down now, you have at least a week or two to catch up,” he says. “Then maybe you'll be able to create more capacity in the hospital to look after those patients and buy yourself some time until the vaccines roll out and we get some immunity in the community."

Saad says options for the field hospital at St. Clair College are being considered to house recovering patients, along with postponing scheduled surgeries to create hospital capacity.