14 patients set to transfer to Lowell field hospital Monday after staffing issues delayed opening

14 patients set to transfer to Lowell field hospital Monday after staffing issues delayed opening

LOWELL, Mass. — The state’s second field hospital is set to open Monday and admit more than a dozen patients on its first day.

Lowell General Hospital Chief Operating Officer Amy Hoey said the field hospital will start small with a pod of 14 patients and will likely expand to 28 patients by the end of the week. It can treat 77 patients at surge capacity.

“Most of the patients that are here will be stable in the hospital for 24 to 48 hours, and then transitioning here to complete their COVID therapy,” Hoey said. “In most cases, that will include completion of their IV remdesivir, dexamethasone, and other antibiotics as needed.”

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The field hospital in UMass Lowell’s recreation center is opening a week behind schedule due to staffing issues.

Dudley Abbe, vice president of hospitality at Lowell General told Boston 25 News the field hospital was originally set to open on Dec. 28, but they couldn’t find enough nurses to staff the facility and had to push the opening to Jan. 4. “Registered nurses are just in short supply and they’re being used in main hospital settings, so it puts a lot of pressure on trying to open a field hospital,” Abbe said. “We worked with a contract agency that was able to supply nurses from across the country.”

The field hospital is opening while UMass Lowell students are on winter break. It was set up back in April, but ultimately, it wasn’t needed during the first surge of the pandemic.

The Lowell field hospital will be the second to open in the state during the second surge.

“We are delighted to be able to use the assets, the skills, Amy, Dudley and the team here, to stand up an alternate care site for the benefit of patients during what will be I think in our lifetimes probably the most challenging clinical scenario that we could see play out,” said Jody White, president and CEO of Lowell General Hospital.

A field hospital at Worcester’s DCU Center opened about a month ago. Leaders at that field hospital said they are admitting patients faster than they’re discharging them, and beds are starting to fill up.

According to the latest state data, three-quarters of ICU beds are full across the state and 83% of non-ICU beds are full statewide.

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