TORONTO -- Ontario’s first brand new hospital in decades opened its doors Sunday, accepting COVID-19 patients as part of a plan to ease the burden on hospitals in York Region and Toronto that neared their breaking points due to the pandemic last month.

The $1.7 billion Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital on Major Mackenzie Drive has narrowed its opening plan to target COVID-19 patients from other hospitals, as the province’s health system continues to delay elective surgeries due to capacity issues caused by the pandemic.

Mackenzie Health CEO Altaf Stationwala told CP24 they were approached by the Ford government last month and asked how they could tailor the hospital’s opening to support the burden created by the pandemic.

He said the plan involved “not opening up other parts of the hospital like the emergency department, the maternity ward, the mental health space, and saying ‘how do we create as much capacity as we can for the pandemic’.”

It was expected to accept 42 patients on its first day.

A CP24 reporter watched staff wheel four patients into the facility in the first hour it was open.

The hospital, which is eventually planned to have 342 beds, will start with space for 35 intensive care patients and 150 acute care beds.

The facility was approved in 2008 and construction began in 2016.

Hospitalizations in Ontario have declined from a high of more than 1,700 in mid-January to about 1,000 as of Saturday.