Will T shutdown delay patient care?

BOSTON — It may not be the biggest hospital in Boston, but Tufts Medical Center has one huge thing going for it: a dedicated T stop on the Orange Line.

“Many people choose us, both as an employer and as a patient, because they don’t need a car to access us,” said Diana Richardson, the hospital’s Chief Operating Officer. “We’re right in the middle of downtown Boston, it’s very easy to access our services or come to work. So we have significant numbers of people in both those categories who actually don’t have a car.”

But for the next month, they might need a car to access Tufts -- or, at the very least, some alternate form of transportation -- once the Orange Line initiates its temporary 30-day shutdown on Friday.

“Coming from an industry that is very focused on quality and safety and reliability, we are 100 percent supportive of the MBTA’s efforts to fix the issue once and for all and to do it in the quickest manner possible,” Richardson said. “Having said that, it doesn’t lessen the impact on our staff and particularly on our patients, who are trying to get here.”

What concerns Richardson is that some patients, without access to direct public transit to Tufts, will not keep appointments.

“We’re coming off a long pandemic that resulted in a lot of people putting off necessary care,” she said. “We’re seeing patients that are more frail and more fragile and we are anxious to say to them please don’t put off your care because of this.”

At the very least, Richardson is imploring patients not to make a decision about delaying care in isolation.

“The vast majority of the health care we provide has to be hands-on,” Richardson said. “We suggest that if someone is thinking about cancelling they talk with their provider and physician office first, as it may be the wrong decision for them to put off care or postpone. It may be just a routine visit that makes sense. But we really want them to make that decision in conjunction with their provider.”

Richardson said patients coming from south of Boston have pretty good options to get to Tufts, even with the shut-down -- as commuter rail trains will be making stops at traditional Orange Line stations. Also, southern commuter rail lines terminate at South Station, where a direct Silver Line connection to the hospital is available.

“If you’re coming from the North, it is a bit trickier.” she added. “There are not a lot of great options there.”

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