SAULT STE. MARIE -- It has been nearly three months since the province ordered hospitals to shut down non-essential services, forcing the delay of 1,500 surgeries at the Sault Area Hospital.

On June 9, the hospital will resume elective surgeries they were forced to put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it will take a while to catch up.

“Unfortunately right now we’re only allowed 60 per cent of the volume, so we’re still (dealing) with a backlog,” said Dr. Joseph Reich, medical director of the surgical department at the Sault Area Hospital.

“I expect us to ramp up a little bit to 75 per cent maybe in July, but the idea of 100 per cent has not been discussed yet.”

The province has told northern Ontario hospitals to keep 10 per cent of their beds free in case of a second COVID outbreak. Hospital officials say staff have had time to develop a comprehensive plan in case that happens.

“We have prepared a ramp down plan that has had more care and thought and planning then we were able to do at the very outset of COVID,” said Sue Roger, the hospital's vice-president of clinical operations.

Hospital officials are also discussing protocols to limit the amount of time patients would spend in the hospital.

“We really do want to reduce a patients’ length of time in a hospital,” said Roger.

Patients are being asked to self isolate for 14 days before their surgeries and they will have to pass a screening test before entering the hospital.