Hospitals in Montreal say they're worried as they get ready for a potential wave of COVID-19 patients.

Health officials warn they may soon have to start cancelling clinics and delaying up to 50 per cent of elective surgeries if the situation continues to decline and they need to prioritize beds.

"The morale of the personnel in the emergency is at one of its lowest points," said Dr. François de Champlain, an ER physician at the MUHC. "It seems like this virus is always two steps ahead in outsmarting all the measures."

The Omicron-driven fifth wave has halted any attempts to catch up on almost two years worth of delayed surgeries and clinical appointments.

"We thought that this was behind us," said Francine Dupuis, associate CEO of CIUSSS West-Central Montreal. "And it’s like we’re going back into the same movie again."

Many clinics have already switched back to tele-medecine, and the MUHC is banning all visitors, except for caregivers, parents of minors and partners of pregnant women.

Nevertheless, emergency rooms across the province are over capacity.

"We always tell them to avoid the emergency room if they’re not very, very sick," said Dupuis. "If they can go to a clinic, please take that alternative."

As of Wednesday morning, six ERs in the Montreal area were reported overcapacity.

"Right now, emergency departments need to be kept for real emergencies and that includes acute shortness of breath," said de Champlain. "If you can’t breathe, if you have chest pains -- chest pain can never be evaluated, really, over the phone -- we need to do certain tests."

People who have other medical needs are encouraged to call 811.

Health officials say they are optimistic for now, as it seems vaccinations are keeping people out of hospital.

Compared to this time last year, before the province launched its vaccine campaign, hospital admissions are down 61 per cent, even as cases are up 92 per cent.

Administrators are reminding Quebecers that the best way to make sure hospitals don't get overwhelmed is to keep following public health measures, including social distancing, wearing a mask and getting a booster shot as soon as possible.