SUDBURY -- Health Sciences North has now taken in six COVID-19 patients from southern Ontario, and expects to receive more.

"COVID-19 admissions to intensive care units (ICU) remain high as hospitals throughout much of southern Ontario are bursting at the seams," HSN said in a news release Thursday.

The hospital and Greater Sudbury Paramedic Services can transport up to two patients per day, if necessary, the release said. HSN could accept anywhere from five to eight COVID-19 patients per week from other parts of the province, should this be required.

“During these difficult times, the healthcare system must work as one to provide critical care to patients everywhere in Ontario,” Mark Hartman, senior vice-president of patient experience, said in the release.

“So, as of May 5, HSN and City of Greater Sudbury Paramedic Services have transported a total of six COVID-19 patients from hospitals in Southern Ontario to HSN and more transfers are expected in the coming weeks.”

Dr. Josée Thériault, medical director of critical care at HSN and North East critical care lead, is also a member of the Ontario Critical Care COVID Command Centre Table. She works with teams at HSN, along with paramedics, to complete patient transfers.

“Everyone is working together as one to offer high-quality care to our local and regional families, while helping out our partners to the south," Thériault said in the release.

"The North Bay Regional Health Centre and the Sault Area Hospital should also be commended for their collaboration as they are also accepting ICU patients to share the load. We are all so proud to be able to help southern patients, families, and colleagues providing care.”

'Returning the favour'

While the most recent patient transfers have patients heading north, between April 2020 to March of 2021, 339 patients from northeastern Ontario were transferred to hospitals in Toronto, Hamilton, southwestern Ontario and other parts of the province so they could get the care they needed.

HSN transferred 70 patients to hospitals in Toronto last year so patients could get the specialized care they needed.

“Our partner hospitals in southern Ontario have always been there for when patients of northeastern Ontario needed them for specialized or critical care," HSN president and CEO Dominic Giroux said in the release

"Now it’s our turn to return the favour.”

Cambrian College has also been helping out, loaning essential monitoring equipment and infusion pumps to HSN.

As of noon Thursday, HSN has a total of 15 patients admitted who have tested positive for COVID-19, with eight of those patients in the ICU. Additionally, 12 patients admitted to HSN are currently being tested for COVID-19 and are awaiting results.

HSN is also dealing with two COVID-19 outbreaks. One on the fourth floor of the South Tower was declared April 23, which affected three patients and two staff. Another outbreak on the sixth floor of the South Tower, declared on May 4, has affected two patients.

"Additional infection prevention and control measures are in place and surveillance testing is ongoing for both outbreaks," HSN said. "Designated care partners are restricted for both units until further notice. The hospital remains open and continues to be a safe place for people to work and receive care."