State provides update on hospital capacity and healthcare workforce safety protocols

Coronavirus Local Impact

A hospital bed (Nexstar, file).

BOSTON (WWLP) – The challenge of the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact resources at hospitals across the state.

As a result, the Baker-Polito Administration, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association (MHA), is updating hospital guidance to conserve inpatient hospital capacity and to protect the health of patients and workers.

Read the updated COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Order here.

Effective November 29, any hospital or hospital system that has limited capacity must begin to reduce non-essential, non-urgent scheduled procedures to ensure adequate hospital capacity for immediate healthcare needs.

The changes were made due to several issues including staffing shortages, loss of some 500 medical/surgical and ICU hospital beds across the state, and seasonal illness increases that require hospitalization.

“The current strain on hospital capacity is due to longer than average hospital stays and significant workforce shortages, separate and apart from the challenges brought on by COVID,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders. “COVID hospitalizations in Massachusetts remain lower than almost every other state in the nation, but the challenges the healthcare system face remain, and this order will ensure hospitals can serve all residents, including those who require treatment for COVID-19.”

DPH defines non-essential, non-urgent scheduled procedures as procedures that are scheduled in advance because the procedure is not a medical emergency and where delay will not result in adverse outcomes to the patient’s health.  This reduction will not impact urgent and essential procedures.

The state has also implemented other changes to help alleviate the burden on health systems such as extended temporary licensure for healthcare workers and expedited licensing processes; improved services to support hospitals in discharging patients; expanded coverage for telehealth and hospital-at-home programs; expanded inpatient psychiatry services and capacity to address the ongoing crisis in behavioral health; extended coverage for skilled nursing facilities; and, increased funding and capacity for EMS transport services to ensure adequate transportation for patients.

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