Local hospitals reaching ICU capacity during second surge

BOSTON — As the second coronavirus surge continues to ravage Massachusetts, local doctors are sounding the alarm about the scarcity of intensive care unit beds.

“My colleague just called seven Boston area hospitals trying to find one capable of accepting an ICU transfer. No beds,” Dr. Derek Monette tweeted Tuesday night.

Monette, an emergency medicine doctor at MGH, later tweeted he was moonlighting at a facility outside of Boston at the time, and pleaded with people to stay home.

But his message illustrates how serious the situation is getting in ICUs across Massachusetts.

“I think we’re all tired. It hasn’t really slowed down since the first surge,” Mass. General ICU Medical Director Dr. Jarone Lee said.

According to the Dept. of Public Health, there are 1,445 ICU beds in Massachusetts and 73% of them are occupied.

Eighty-three percent of the beds in Boston are taken, and 88% in the northeast area of the state, DPH data shows.

Lee said the hospital has plans in place to open additional beds for coronavirus patients, something known as “surge capacity.”

Many patients are not infected with COVID-19 but need treatment for other illnesses.

“We want to always keep our doors open for patients who have strokes, heart attacks, traumas, as well as COVID-patients, and it’s getting really tight right now,” Tufts Medical Center Chief Nursing Officer Terry Hudson-Jinks, said.

Tufts is already at surge capacity, Hudson-Jinks said, which means 100% of its traditional ICU beds are taken.

“It is top of mind and it keeps us all up all night,” Hudson-Jinks said. “The hospital overall is busier right now than we were in April and May with our total number of patients needing care.”

“We are definitely at capacity,” Dr. Ali Raja said. “Our ICUs have about 50 patients in them right now, which is over what they can normally handle.”

Dr. Raja is the Executive Vice-Chair of Emergency Medicine at MGH. He said we’re paying the price for the lack of social distancing over Thanksgiving.

“Our floor beds, the non-ICU beds, are also full as well so we are seeing the effects of Thanksgiving and it makes me very worried about Christmas,” he said.


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