Saskatchewan officials say another two COVID-19 patients who had been transferred to Ontario for intensive care have died there, bringing the total number of deaths among transferred patients to five.
On Monday, only three such deaths had been reported.
Saskatchewan patients were moved out of province beginning last month when the fourth wave resulted in a large number of ICU patients, testing the capacities of health staff and stretching the province's total ICU bed load beyond its max.
In all, 27 patients were flown to Ontario, all with COVID-19, according to the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency.
As of Tuesday, 15 of those 27 patients were still in Ontario. Of the remaining 12, five died and seven have been moved back to Saskatchewan.
One death occurred on Nov. 4, two on Nov. 6 and two on Monday.
All occurred in hospital.
Dr. Youssef Al-Begamy, a doctor working in Moose Jaw, Sask., was one of the five transferred patients who died.
"We do expect more patients to be repatriated as physicians determine their ability to safely travel," said Marlo Pritchard, the president of the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency.
15 remain in Ontario
In pre-COVID times, the most ICU beds Saskatchewan could muster was 79. That number has been severely tested in recent months.
As of Tuesday, in addition to the 15 former Saskatchewan patients still in Ontario, there were 51 Saskatchewan ICU patients with COVID-19 and 45 without the disease, for a total of 96 in-province ICU patients — well beyond the regular provincial capacity of 79.
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Hundreds of health care workers were redeployed to keep up with staffing ICU beds.
Premier Scott Moe has recently said the province is evaluating whether 79 ICU beds, without surging health-care staff, is enough for the future.
The Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency did not announce any further patients transfers to Ontario on Tuesday.