WINGHAM, ONT. -- It’s not a question of if, but when patients from overcrowded intensive care units in city hospitals end up in hospitals in rural Ontario.

"In the context of COVID-19, there are no individual hospitals, we are all very much part of the same system," says Huron-Perth Healthcare Alliance CEO Andrew Williams. 

Williams says there is a provincial critical care network that is monitoring ICU capacity in COVID-19 "hot zones" every single hour. Now that so many ICUs in the Greater Toronto Area are reaching or exceeding capacity, patients will have to be moved elsewhere. 

"We fully expect that to happen over the coming weeks. We regularly have patients move throughout the system. We’ve had patients come from London into Huron-Perth to help with capacity, so it’s an ongoing conversation," says Williams. 

In Grey-Bruce, hospital beds are being added across the region to prepare for the expected arrival of "city" ICU and non-ICU patients. 

"Within SBGHC’s four hospital sites, five additional beds have been opened in Walkerton, and we are preparing to open additional beds in Durham and possibly Kincardine. We are currently working with London Health Sciences Centre and other regional hospitals to accept lower acuity patients to open up beds in those centres for more acutely ill patients," says Dr. Lisa Roth, South Bruce Grey Health Centre Chief of Staff.

"GBHS has added 28 additional beds to prepare for a surge in COVID-19 and non COVID-19 patients. These beds are in our medical/surgical department, our ICU, and for those patients waiting in hospital to transition to another level of care. We also have a field hospital ready to be opened should the system pressures overwhelm hospital capacity," says Gary Sims, President and CEO of Grey Bruce Health Services. 

Three Grey-Bruce residents are currently in hospital battling Covid-19. Dr. Ian Arra, Grey-Bruce’s Medical Officer of Health says the public shouldn’t be concerned if it’s COVID-19 patients, or other ICU patients coming to the area. 

"The fact that the person is going into ICU, that’s the most controlled environment there is. So, whether they have COVID-19 or not, is not going to increase the risk to the population out there. Even, the majority of health care providers who were infected with COVID-19, have been in the community, in their personal lives. Not in the hospital, or in the health care system," he says.