NEWMARKET, ONT. -- Several patients from Newmarket's Southlake Regional Health Centre are moving into a local retirement residence in Bradford to free up space in the hospital.

Starting this week, 26 patients who have been waiting for long-term care will relocate to The Elden of Bradford, a retirement residence.

"An acute care setting is not the best setting when you no longer need acute care, especially as a senior," said Southlake's director of community programs, Gayle Seddon.

"They're going to have a much better quality of life here," said The Elden's director of development, Jonathan Scott. "No one wants to live in a hospital, as much as we love our local hospital."

The move will also free up much-needed space in the hospital as Ontario enters the second wave of the pandemic.

"On any given day, the hospital is quite full," said Seddon. "And we want to make sure that we can offer people that need acute care as rapid access to that care as possible."

Officials with the retirement residence and the hospital say stringent safety protocols are in place to transfer patients.

Each will undergo COVID-19 testing before leaving the hospital and will be tested again at The Elden before going into a 14-day quarantine.

The Elden staff will care for the patients while working closely with officials at the hospital. The province is fronting the bill for the patients to stay at the retirement residence.

York-Simcoe MPP Caroline Mulroney commended the partnership, saying in a press release that it demonstrates "the value of organizations working together to create new ways of delivering care, which can then be replicated in other communities across the province."

Seddon said the hospital has been looking to partner with local retirement residences since before the pandemic and that COVID-19 only further emphasized the need. "That provided a little impetus for us to look at these partnerships," she said.

"And it's good for us," said Scott. "It's a community benefit. It's our way of giving back, and it also welcomes new residents into our building."

The Southlake patients began moving into the residence on Monday and will continue to move in over the next few days.