BARRIE, ONT. -- Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre's $10 million Pandemic Response Unit (PRU) is ready to serve as the region's field hospital, admitting patients from overwhelmed hospitals across Simcoe Muskoka.

RVH's PRU is one of only three in the province.

"Residents of this region can be confident that we have the capacity to care for them," said RVH president and CEO Janice Skot.

The 70-bed, 8,250 square-foot unit is the region's insurance policy as COVID-19 spreads and hospitals from Muskoka to Alliston near capacity.

Georgian Bay General Hospital president and CEO Gail Hunt said the PRU would solve a big problem facing hospitals across the region.

"This is the wrong time to be going back to hallway medicine, and that's the thing we're trying to avoid because that's the only alternative - is hallway medicine. This added capacity in our area will prevent that from happening," Hunt said.

The provincial government provided RVH with $12.3 million in funding to allow the Barrie hospital to open 99 additional beds, including the 70 in the new unit.

The PRU will be designated for patients with an estimated hospital stay of three to five days. It is not for COVID patients.

"By making sure people are in rooms, and it also frees up space so that the COVID patients, which are infectious, can be in the full room to make sure it's not spreading anywhere," said Dr. Derek Benjamin, chief of medicine at RVH.

The hospital anticipates opening the PRU in phases starting later this month.

IOOF Seniors Home in Barrie also got a boost from the province on Friday, with a $30 million investment to add 64 new spaces and upgrade 66 existing areas.

"The awarding of new beds and redevelopment of existing long-term care beds will ensure that the IOOF will continue to be a vital partner in the delivery of much needed long-term care services to the citizens of this region and the province for many years to come," said Gary Hopkins, CEO.

The investment is part of the province's pledge to add nearly 3,000 new and upgraded spaces in long-term care homes.

"This project will help reduce the waitlist while improving the quality of care and quality of life of our seniors," said Barrie-Innisfil MPP Andrea Khanjin.

Thirty-three of Simcoe Muskoka's 52 COVID-19-related deaths have been in long-term care homes in Barrie, Bradford and Beeton.