One field hospital expands, another searching for nurses

One field hospital expands, another searching for nurses

WORCESTER, Mass. — Worcester’s COVID-19 cases continue to rise, and the city’s field hospital is expanding as a result. On Tuesday, the team prepared an additional 10 hospital beds to reach 60 in total; by week’s end that number will be 75, according to Peter Lancette, the associate chief nursing officer of field hospital operations.

“We’re definitely seeing our admissions outweighing our discharges at this point,” Lancette said Tuesday.

During the DCU Center’s first stint as a field hospital, it saw 161 patients in 22 days, Lancette said. Since December 6, when the center reopened, there have been 173 patients.

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“Come January 5, we’re going to see our post-Christmas surge,” Lancette said. “We’re preparing to increase our staffing and our capabilities to handle that surge as best we can.”

Meanwhile in Lowell, UMass Lowell’s recreation center is still prepared for its opening on January 4. Some last-minute tasks include training and workflow for the staff using mock patients, said Amy Hoey, the chief operations officer with Lowell General Hospital Circle Health.

Hoey anticipates the field hospital opening with 14 patients on January 4 and is actively recruiting more nurses as needed.

“It’s extraordinarily challenging because the entire country is looking for registered nurses,” Hoey said.

Statewide, non-intensive care unit available bed space has plummeted in the past month by 17%, according to data from the Department of Public Health. Eighty percent of hospital beds in central Massachusetts and 82% in the Metro West were occupied as of December 27, according to DPH.

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