BARRIE, ONT. -- Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) is ramping down all non-emergent scheduled surgeries as infection rates sour across Simcoe County.

"The point of this is to preserve critical care bed capacity and ensure that hospitals have enough staff to safely care for patients and particularly those who require intensive care," explained RVH president and CEO Janice Skot.

The province directed Ontario hospitals, except those in Northern Ontario, to scale back on procedures starting Monday.

The Ministry of Health reports a record-setting 541 people battling the virus in ICUs across the province, according to a tweet from critical care physician Dr. Kali Barrett based on the latest data from Critical Care Services Ontario.

The Barrie hospital is currently caring for 20 infected patients, six in the intensive care unit, three on ventilators.

RVH has treated nearly 300 COVID-19 patients since the pandemic; 50 died from complications of the virus.

As staff at the hospital shift focus from non-emergency surgeries to the anticipated influx of COVID-19 patients, some will continue to perform emergency and urgent surgeries and procedures, like trauma, cancer and vascular, while complying with the provincial order.

In a release Friday, the hospital stated, "Patients will be notified directly if this ramp down impacts their surgery, procedure or clinic appointment. Only those patients whose appointments are cancelled will be notified."

In Orillia, Carmine Stumpo, Soliders' Memorial Hospital president and CEO, said the situation was grave. "This is as serious as anything we've seen in the entire pandemic. We are in uncharted waters in terms of hospitalization rates and ICU rates. They are continuing to go up."

Younger, sicker patients fill ICU beds as the variants of concern continue to spread. The Ministry of Health called on all hospitals to manage capacity and resources before the system becomes overloaded with severely ill patients.

Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket issued a statement, saying in part, "[We] are extremely concerned about the high number of COVID-19 cases and how that impacts scheduled surgeries."

Meanwhile, RVH was already backlogged on 2,500 procedures after about 4,000 were delayed during the first ramp down in March 2020. At that time, the order remained in effect until late May.

It's unclear how long these measures will remain in place.

In the meantime, hospital officials are apologizing to those impacted. "We recognize how difficult and frustrating this second ramp-down is for patients, particularly those whose procedures were already delayed due to the pandemic," Skot said.

Officials remind residents not to hesitate if in need of medical attention.

Simcoe Muskoka currently has more than 770 active COVID-19 cases, including 38 hospitalizations.

With files from CTV Toronto and CTV Barrie's Kim Phillips