SUDBURY -- Health Sciences North in Sudbury has confirmed the first patient with COVID-19 has been admitted as the hospital continues to develop contingency plans to handle further spread.

The woman in her 50's was first tested on March 29 at HSN’s emergency department, where she was immediately placed in an isolation room. As of Wednesday afternoon, she remains in stable condition.

The news comes as HSN continues to develop plans for how to handle an influx of COVID-19 patients locally. 

For the first time in a long time, Sudbury's hospital is running at under capacity.

Health Sciences North says the number of admitted patients is down from over 500 to 350.

The hospital is also reviewing its pandemic plans to expand to 102 critical care beds.

There are also 62 ventilators across all units, with more on order. 

Hospital administration says it was able to make room by cancelling elective procedures and surgeries.

"I really want to convey how proud I am of the work of our frontline care providers," said HSN CEO Dominic Giroux in a video teleconference with media on Wednesday. "They have prepared diligently for this over the last few weeks. They have followed all the required precautions and protocols regarding the infection, prevention and control." 

Giroux says the Clarion Hotel, located in downtown Sudbury, has been secured as alternative space for the hospital. This will be a partnership arrangement between HSN, the North East Local Health Integration Network, and the St. Joseph’s Health Centre. 

The site will be able to provide treatment for up to 95 patients on three stories of the hotel. Giroux says these will primarily be alternative level of care patients, including those waiting for space in an assisted living facility or a rehabilitation placement.

The hospital is also planning for the expansion of critical care beds, which normally has 28 spaces. HSN has managed to increase that number to 102 beds. The intensive care unit would look after the first 16 positive COVID-19 patients who require critical care. The second and third units would be the cardiovascular unit and the cardiac medical unit. These last two would be divided by age. 

"We have the ability to grow our number of admitted patients at Health Sciences North by 202 at the Ramsey Lake Health Centre based on our current occupancy level. In addition to that, we can grow by another 95 patients at the Clarion Hotel for a total of 295 admitted patients," said the hospital CEO.

Giroux says ALC patients could start being transferred to the Clarion Hotel as soon as Monday.