LONDON, ONT. -- Just this week hospitals in London, St. Thomas and Sarnia have accepted critically ill COVID-19 patients.

All are arriving on medical flights, and as CTV News London witnessed on Thursday evening, patients are ventilated.

The landing at London International Airport is just one example of 37 Manitoba COVID-19 patients who have arrived at Ontario hospitals for critical care.

That’s on top of 207 patients in Manitoba health care facilities.

On Friday, Manitoba’s deputy chief provincial public health officer, Jazz Atwal, encouraged residents to do their part to ease the pressure on the health care system.

In the interim, hospitals, including London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) are stepping up.

“In total, we’ve taken six patients from Manitoba over the last couple of weeks,” states Carol Young-Ritchie, LHSC’s chief clinical officer and chief nursing executive.

She tells CTV News London more are coming, “We’re anticipating probably getting two to three a week for the next couple of weeks.”

Carol Young-Ritchie
Carol Young-Ritchie

How many Manitoba patients LHSC receives is determined by Ontario’s COVID Critical Care Command Centre, but Young-Ritchie says the hospital has capacity.

“We have seen a drop in our COVID numbers, so we have been able to take more.”

It is not just fewer local cases freeing up space. Critical care beds are also opening up because COVID-19 patient transfers from the Greater Toronto Area have become less frequent.

Young-Ritchie says Manitoba patients arriving in Ontario generally only remain until they are stabilized.

A clear example was captured on the tarmac in London Wednesday, as the aircraft dropping off a patient to a waiting ambulance quickly loaded another patient to return home.

The Manitoba government said Friday it won’t lift any current restrictions in the province until - at least - out-of-province transfers are no longer needed.

Currently, LHSC has fewer than five out-of-province patients, but Young-Ritchie could not confirm if all call Manitoba home.

She also reassures local residents that should full COVID-19 capacity be required, provincial officials would not place out-of-province patients at LHSC.

“We watch that very closely every day,” she concluded.