TORONTO - There's "more to be done" to help hospitals in the Windsor area that are so crowded officials have declared a crisis to free up space, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Wednesday.

Gary Switzer, CEO of the Erie-St. Clair Local Health Integration Network, said it declared the crisis in a bid to empty acute care beds being occupied by long-term care patients.

"Currently we have, in one of the hospitals, 19 patients waiting in the emergency room for a bed," he said in an interview.

The LHIN also had to cancel several elective surgeries because there would not be any beds available for the post-surgery patients.

The crisis designation means those who refuse to move to available beds at long-term care facilities can be charged up to $600 a day to stay in hospital.

All three hospitals in Windsor-Essex have been coping with occupancy rates of over 100 per cent for the past several weeks.

Switzer said the problem is the result of a timing issue. Patients who are being transferred from an old long-term care home to a new one are putting strain on the system.

The crisis is expected to continue for another four weeks.

Health Minister Deb Matthews said the local health integration network is doing its best under the difficult circumstances.

"This is a situation that's being handled as well as it can be as we open up the new home," she said in an interview.

"For me, having this kind of solution, imperfect as it may be, being worked out at the local level is a very good argument for having local health integration networks."

McGuinty promised in 2007 to build a new nursing home in Windsor -- home to two Liberal cabinet ministers -- but the project has yet to get off the ground.

The New Democrats say the premier's failure to deliver on that promise is behind the current crisis -- a mistake that will come back to haunt him in the Oct. 6 election.

"Everywhere I go, people are telling me that the health-care system is literally eroding before their eyes," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

"I don't know the premier with any credibility is going to claim major victories on the health-care file when that's not what people are experiencing."

But McGuinty continued to tout his government's record Wednesday, pointing to the 18 hospitals the Liberals are building and the 11,000 nurses and 2,900 doctors they have hired as proof of their investment in health care.

"We've done a lot by any objective assessment, but there's always more to be done," said McGuinty.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak has vowed to scrap the local health networks if elected this fall, saying he'd put the money back into front-line care.

McGuinty said he's optimistic that his party will find a way to cope with the increasing pressure that the retiring baby boomers will put on the health-care system in the coming years.

"We're going to have to find a way to respond to that demand in a way that doesn't crush our children and grandchildren underneath the weight of those new costs," McGuinty said.

"I'm convinced that we can find a way to do that."