KITCHENER -- Hospitals in Waterloo Region have started to accept patient transfers from hospitals outside of the region.

As of Monday, Grand River Hospital had five patient transfers. Cambridge Memorial Hospital had also accepted two out-of-region patients.

Hospitals across the province started ramping down elective surgeries and non-urgent procedures on Monday to allow space for COVID-19 patients.

"At this time we’ve been directed to ramp down surgeries to accommodate patients that may potentially be in need of care and unable to receive it in their local hospital," an emailed statement from GRH said in part. "If you or a loved one have an upcoming booked surgery that is affected, you will be contacted by the hospital or your surgeon's office directly. If you do not receive a phone call, your procedure or appointment will proceed as normal."

As of Monday, at least 619 people across Ontario are receiving treatment in an ICU.

In an emailed statement to CTV Kitchener, St. Mary's President Lee Fairclough said teams at hospitals across the region are working to reduce procedures and create more capacity "to help with the sharp increase in cases we've seen provincially."

"We are also seeing a gradual increase in the number of COVID positive patients admitted to hospital from our region, and continue to care for those that have had COVID and still require ongoing care in hospital," Fairclough's statement said in part.

Fairclough said ICUs across Waterloo-Wellington were at around 80 per cent as of Monday morning, although that fluctuates between locations.

"It is a very busy time in the hospital currently as we actively work to prepare, and also ensure our staff can be made available to do additional training should it be needed to support medicine and critical care in the near future," she said.

The region's COVID-19 dashboard update on Monday said there are 24 people in hospital receiving treatment for COVID-19, including 10 in the ICU.

GRH officials said the ICU is at 93 per cent capacity. The hospital has 29 critical care beds across two units. There are 10 COVID-19 positive patients in the ICU.

Cambridge Memorial said there are seven COVID-19 patients in hospital right now. Eight of 12 ICU beds are currently in use. Three ICU patients have tested positive for COVID-19. The ICU can expand to 20 beds if needed, but officials said they haven't expanded capacity at this point.

St. Mary's General Hospital reported 100 per cent capacity in its medical surgical ICU. The cardiovascular ICU is at 78 per cent capacity. There are two patients with COVID-19.

Guelph General Hospital said its ICU is at 100 per cent capacity. Officials said they plan to expand from 10 to 16 beds this week. There are 10 patients with COVID-19 in hospital, and fewer than five are in the ICU.

There are no out-of-town transfers at this time, but officials said they are ready to accept them if necessary.

"We are stable and just taking it one day and one patient at a time," said Melissa Skinner, vice president and chief nursing executive at Guelph General Hospital. "But, it feels very tenuous to us that this could change very quickly."

Dr. Chris Simpson, vice president of the Ontario Health Executive, said the health-care system may not be able to handle 200 to 300 more COVID-19 patients in intensive care without giving priority to the oldest and sickest patients.

"Pulling out all the stops to avoid having to activate the triage protocol creating new ICU space capacity," Dr. Simpson said.

Minister of Health Christine Elliott said they expect to have 350 new spaces before the end of the week. She also said student nurses will be paid for extra hours assisting in hospitals so experienced nurses can staff the ICUs.

With reporting by CTV News Kitchener's Natalie van Rooy