TORONTO -- Ontario will begin moving chronically ill hospital patients out of hospitals and into long-term care homes without their consent to free up space for COVID-19 patients, the province announced Wednesday.

With an amendment to the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, the province will be able to move hospital patients to long-term care homes or retirements homes, provided their doctor agrees their medical needs can be met in that setting, without the patient’s consent or the consent of their substitute decision maker.

“The amended order can only be used during major surge events where the demand for critical care threatens to overwhelm a hospital and compromise care,” the province said. “Hundreds of individuals in hospital are waiting to be discharged to a long-term care home or another more appropriate care setting and first priority will be given to patients with less complex care needs and those who are able to be moved close to their preferred choice.”

Health Minister Christine Elliott and Ontario Health CEO Matt Anderson will speak about the decision about the province’s response to the third wave of coronavirus in the province on Wednesday morning.

Under lockdown for most of the month, Ontario has seen record high infection rates, active caseloads and test positivity, pushing the province’s hospital system to the limit.

There were 875 COVID-19 patients in intensive care across Ontario’s hospital system on Tuesday, with 2,700 total patients hospitalized due to COVID-19, according to local public health units and hospital networks.

Elliott and Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Williams have responded by virtually eliminating all non-emergency surgery in hospitals, signing off on orders to transfer patients between hospitals without their consent, allowing medical professionals to conduct activity outside the scope of their normal practice in emergency situations and appealing abroad for more temporary healthcare workers to help out.

Using the ORNGE Air Ambulance service, the province has transferred hundreds of patients from the GTA to hospitals in other parts of Ontario in order to free up space.

There are now six field hospitals set up across the province, adding hundreds of acute care beds to the system.

Several hundred healthcare workers from the federal government, the Canadian Forces and the provinces of Newfoundland and New Brunswick have arrived in Ontario to help hospitals cope with the burden.

Meanwhile, Ontario Premier Doug Ford remains at his mother’s home in Etobicoke, completing a 14-day period of isolation after one of the staffers in his office tested positive for COVID-19.

He will remain in isolation until early next week.