WINNIPEG -- Manitoba has transferred 26 COVID-19 patients from Manitoba ICUs to Ontario to help free up beds, and an ICU doctor says the number of patients being transferred will grow until hospitalizations and case counts start to decline.

A Shared Health Spokesperson confirmed three more patients were transferred to facilities in Ottawa, Peterborough and Woodstock, and a patient in Owen Sound was returned to Manitoba, leaving 25 patients from Manitoba in ICU beds in Ontario.

“Additional COVID patients in ICU are tentatively scheduled for transfer today to Ontario and, for the first time, Saskatchewan,” the spokesperson said. “We continue to be grateful to our provincial neighbours for their partnership and support in the care of Manitobans with COVID-19.”

Dr. Anand Kumar, an ICU physician in Manitoba, said in recent days, Manitoba’s daily case counts have started to decrease, but notes ICU cases lag two or three weeks behind.

“When we saw cases of 450 to 600 last week, we still have yet to see that wave coming in,” he said.

Kumar said even if daily cases start to go down, they could crest on the ICU numbers in the next couple of weeks and then start to see a decline.

“It’s possible that we could end up approaching 100 people that we have to transfer out of the province, which is an astonishing number,” he said.

The news comes one day after the province confirmed a COVID-19 patient, who has been identified as 31-year-old Krystal Mousseau, died this week following an attempted transfer to Ontario for treatment.

Kumar said transfers of patients to other hospitals typically happen within the city, or from other parts of the province, due to bed space. They’ve also transferred patients to other provinces for specialized treatment not available in Manitoba.

However, this situation is different.

“We’re transferring large numbers of patients, averaging about four a day, outside of the province to other ICUs, simply because we don’t have the capacity to take care of them,” he said.

On Thursday, Shared Health said there were 121 total patients in Manitoba ICU, including 73 people who either have COVID-19 or are recovering from the illness. Of the COVID-19 patients, 11 are under the age of 40.

The normal baseline ICU capacity pre-COVID was 72 patients.

Kumar said it is up to Manitobans to follow all public health restrictions to help reduce the strain on the health-care system.

“If they don’t follow that, this is going to be an incredibly long, difficult summer for everybody,” he said.

-With files from CTV's Stephanie Tsicos