Mass. National Guard deployed to understaffed hospitals; elective surgeries postponed

Coronavirus

BOSTON (WPRI) — Gov. Charlie Baker deployed 500 members of the Massachusetts National Guard on Monday to help the non-clinical support needs of hospitals and transport systems.

Members began training to support 55 acute care hospitals, as well as 12 ambulance service providers across the state.

The activation comes as the health care system is facing a critical staffing shortage which has contributed to the loss of approximately 500 medical/surgical and ICU hospital beds since the beginning of the year, according to the Baker-Polito Administration.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health surveyed all hospitals and ambulance service providers and identified five roles Guard personnel can serve for up to 90 days:

  • Non-emergency transport between facilities: driving ambulances used to transfer patients between two health care locations such as when patients are discharged from a hospital and transferred to a long term care facility.
  • Patient observers: providing continuous or frequent observation of a patient who is at risk for harm to themselves.  
  • Security support: helping to maintain a safe workplace.
  • In-hospital transport: bringing patients via wheelchair or, if needed, stretcher, from their patient room to tests such as x-ray or CT scan, or from the emergency department to their inpatient floor.
  • Food service/tray delivery support: delivering patient meals to their rooms

Also starting Monday, the DPH ordered all hospitals to postpone or cancel nonessential elective procedures likely to result in inpatient admission in order to maintain and increase inpatient capacity.

Patients are reminded to still seek necessary care at their hospital or from their health care provider.

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