Ontario now plans to accept twice as many critically ill COVID-19 patients from overburdened Saskatchewan hospitals as previously reported.

A memo from the Ontario Critical Care COVID-19 Command Centre obtained by CP24 on Monday outlined plans to transfer six patients to Ontario hospitals over a 72-hour period.

But in an interview with CP24 on Tuesday afternoon. Ontario Health Executive Vice President Dr. Chris Simpson confirmed that there are also plans to transfer an additional six patients over the course of Thursday and Friday, bringing the total number of patient transfers from the hard-hit western province to 12.

“I think it is far more efficient for us to bring 12 patients here than it would be for us to mobilize teams to go there, although that's certainly another option that can always be considered,” he said. “They have, you know, somewhere between 100 and 150 ICU beds. So bringing just 12 patients here has very little impact on our overall operations, we can easily accommodate that within our current infrastructure without moving health human resources around and it really makes all the difference in the world to the Saskatchewan health system by freeing up those beds for patients who might be victims of motor vehicle crashes or who require surgery.”

There are currently 315 COVID-19 patients in Saskatchewan’s hospitals, including 85 in intensive care.

Meanwhile in Ontario, a province with 12 times the population, there are only 260 COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized. Of those people, 159 are in intensive care.

Saskatchewan hospitals have suspended all organ transplants, neurosurgery and intensive cardiac care in order to focus resources on COVID-19 patients.

Simpson said that he is hopeful that with the fourth wave appearing to recede in Saskatchewan the province may be through “the worst of it” when it comes to the strain on their health-care system.

But he said that Ontario is “prepared to talk about doing more if needed.”

This past summer Ontario also hosted up to three dozen COVID-19 patients from Manitoba when its healthcare system came under immense strain.

“Right now I think in wave four in Ontario we've seen better than expected numbers in terms of new cases and that has meant that our ICU numbers of COVID patients are now somewhere between one and 200 pretty consistently and given the government has made some investments in new ICU beds we now have sufficient capacity to look after COVID patients and all the non-COVID ICU needs,” Simpson said. “But we're very mindful of the health human resources pressures and so this has to be watched very carefully. I think we need to approach this with a great deal of humility, not knowing exactly what's going to happen.”