SUDBURY -- Health Sciences North has been given permission to slowly resume elective surgeries and other services as of June 1.

In a news release Wednesday, HSN said it postponed more than 4,400 non-urgent surgeries and minor procedures since March 15, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced their cancellation. During that period, more than 1,000 emergency surgeries and urgent minor procedures were performed.

HSN said it has now received approval from the COVID-19 Northern Ontario Regional Steering Committee and Ontario Health (North) to resume elective procedures.

"Last night, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health also lifted restrictions to allow for the gradual restart of clinical services," the release said.

All Ontario hospital stopped performing non-urgent surgeries in mid-March, following direction from the Minister of Health.

"Postponing these activities has been challenging for patients, families and our medical staff," the release said.

Over the weekend, Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, medical officer of health with Public Health Sudbury and Districts, confirmed the required criteria were met in Sudbury for the hospital to resume elective surgeries and non-urgent procedures.

"To be clear, not all services will resume on June 1," the release said. "It will take time to reschedule services, and all of this hinges on a number of factors, including PPE, bed occupancy, availability of drugs and supplies, ability to maintain safe physical distancing, and our human resource capacity."

Even with elective surgeries being performed again, HSN has to keep 10 per cent of its beds open in case there is a new surge of COVID cases.

"This is why a cautious and gradual approach to the initial resumption is required to closely monitor any impacts to our operations," the release said. "This will roll out in phases."

Phase 1 of the recovery plan at HSN will focus on surgical and cardiac procedures and tests where patients generally need up to 48 hours to recover in hospital.

"This will include up to about 200 surgical cases per week, or 60 per cent of our normal activity," the release said.

Phase 2 will focus on some surgeries where patients will require more than two days of recovery in hospital, and may begin in July. During phase 3, HSN will increase to 75 per cent of normal case activity.

"It’s important to note that the hospital may need to stay in a specific phase for several weeks at a time, or longer, or return to an earlier phase depending on occupancy, PPE and drug supply status," the release said.

HSN will be contacting patients directly to reschedule their procedures. HSN is asking patients and the public to not call the hospital or surgeon’s offices to ask when they will be rescheduled.

HSN will continue to monitor and reassess this plan on an ongoing basis, especially if there is a sudden surge in COVD-19 cases in the community.