BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts National Guard members started fanning out across the state Monday to provide much-needed help to dozens of understaffed hospitals facing a surge of COVID patients.
An initial deployment of up to 300 Guard members is scheduled to help some of the state’s largest and most acclaimed medical facilities, including Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, to regional facilities such as Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester and Milford Regional Medical Center, according to a list provided by the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services.
Nearly 20 Guard members received orientation Monday morning before being deployed to several hospitals operated by Worcester-based UMass Memorial Health, system spokesperson Debora Spano said. Seventeen National Guard members have been deployed to Baystate Health hospitals—most at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield.
There, starting Tuesday, they will be providing security, lobby, and screener support, the system said in a statement. Gov. Charlie Baker announced last week that up to 500 Guard members would be deployed for up to 90 days to provide non-clinical support at 55 acute care hospitals and 12 ambulance service providers.
The Guard members will provide support in five critical areas identified by the state based on a survey of hospitals and ambulance services: non-emergency transportation between health care facilities; observing patients at risk for harming themselves; security and maintaining a safe workplace; moving patients within hospitals, such as bringing them from their rooms to test areas; and delivering meals to patients in their rooms.
Another directive from state health officials originally announced last week—the postponement or cancellation of all nonessential elective procedures likely to result in admission—also took effect Monday. New confirmed coronavirus cases driven by the omicron variant surged to a pandemic high of more than 10,000 per day three days last week, while nearly 1,600 people were in the hospital with the disease, according to the latest data from the state Department of Public Health.
The state’s health care system faces a staffing shortage that has contributed to the loss of about 500 medical/surgical and ICU hospital beds this year, state officials have said.