BARRIE, ONT. -- Simcoe County residents whose surgeries were postponed by the third wave of the pandemic may soon get a call to re-book.

Ontario's top doctor has given some areas of the province the green light to restart non-emergency surgeries.

Staff at the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH), Soldier's Memorial Hospital, Stevenson Memorial Hospital, Collingwood General and Marine Hospital and Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare are discussing their next steps.

Local hospitals started dialling back non-emergency surgeries in early April as COVID-19 cases spiked and intensive care units were stretched to their limits.

In a letter addressed to healthcare providers Wednesday, Dr. David Williams says the time is right for a change, with cases, hospitalizations, and ICU admissions trending downward.

"We are beginning to see available capacity among community and hospital partners in some areas of the province," Williams writes.

"It is therefore important to make use of this available capacity to limit the long-term impacts on patients awaiting non-urgent care."

The initial focus of the restart will be surgeries that do not require a hospital stay.

While she cannot provide a timeline for non-urgent surgeries to begin again, the president and CEO of RVH calls the change a hopeful sign.

"Given RVH's regional critical care role, and the ongoing GTA patient transfers to our health centre, our clinical team is developing a safe, gradual ramp-up plan while continuing to provide emergency surgeries and procedures," Janice Skot says in a statement.

Across the province, the surgical backlog has passed 250,000 procedures. Last week, Ontario's Financial Accountability Office (FAO) estimated that number would balloon to 419,000 by the end of September. The FAO estimates clearing that backlog will take more than three years and $1.3 billion to clear.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit reported 51 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday. Three more people have been admitted to area hospitals where 27 people are being treated for the virus; 18 of them at RVH.