LOWELL, Mass. — The field hospital at UMass Lowell’s recreation center is set to start accepting patients Monday.
Lowell General Hospital Chief Operating Officer Amy Hoey said the field hospital will start small with a pod of 14 patients and will expand as needed. The facility is able to treat 77 patients at surge capacity.
By the end of the week they’ll be able to treat up to 28 patients. Overall there are 77 beds in the field hospital, but the number of patients allowed in will depend on staffing.
“We’ve been able to acquire staffing for up to those 28 beds that we’re opening up this week, and we’re continuing to ramp up that staffing,” said Amy Hoey, chief operating officer at Lowell General Hospital.
The field hospital was set up back in April, but ultimately, it wasn’t needed. It was supposed to open on Dec. 28, but had to push its opening back to Jan. 4 because they couldn’t find enough nurses.
“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,” said Lowell General Hospital Vice President of Hospitality Dudley Abbe.
“We worked with a contract agency that was able to supply nurses from across the country.”
The Lowell field hospital will be operational during winter break when most students aren’t on campus.
“It’s a proud moment to stand up and say we can help, we’ve got assets, the patients need us,” said Jody White, president and CEO of Lowell General Hospital.
The gymnasium at UMass Lowell has been transformed into the field hospital, which is once again ready to take on COVID-19 positive patients as nearby hospitals reach capacity. The patients who go there will be the least sick who won’t need the ICU.
“Most of the patients that are here will be stable in the hospital for 24-48 hours and then transitioning here to complete their COVID therapy, which in most cases will include completion of their IV remdesivir, dexamethasone and other antibiotics as needed,” said Amy Hoey, chief operating officer at Lowell General Hospital.
Abbe said it will likely be broken down and turned back into a recreation center by the first or second week of February or sooner depending on the need.
Along with training new staff, it was a challenge to pop up this hospital in a matter of days while UMass Lowell students are on winter break. Lowell General Hospital leaders hope this will make a difference during this second surge of the pandemic.
“We were delighted to use the assets, the skills, and the team here to stand up an alternate care site for the benefit of patients during what I believe, I think in our lifetime, [is] probably the most challenging clinical scenario that we could see play out,” White said.
The Lowell field hospital will be the second to open in Massachusetts during the second surge. A field hospital at Worcester’s DCU Center opened about a month ago.
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