UMass Memorial Hospital: What it’s like inside one of the busiest hospitals in the state treating COVID-19 patients

WORCESTER, Mass. — UMass Memorial Hospital is at what they call the highwater mark. Dr. Eric Dickson is the CEO of the hospital and he took Boston 25 News reporter Malini Basu inside on a virtual tour.

“This area is typically for patients with trauma and cerebral vascular disease [and] stroke. Down this entire hall, we have nothing but COVID patients” said Dr. Dickson.

As he walked through the halls of the hospital, nearly all of the 214 beds were taken up.

“This is completely converted into a COVID-19 unit. Every single one of these beds are being used for COVID patients” Dr. Dickson said.

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Nurses, doctors and other hospital staff said they are working around the clock with some staffers saying they worked upwards of 48 or even 72 hours last week.

During Monday’s briefing, Gov. Charlie Baker said that Worcester is seeing its peak with close to 2400 positive cases and 125 deaths, while other parts of the state have leveled off.

“COVID hospitalizations and bed days related to COVID have gone down in Western Mass. and the Cape, but remain high in Worcester and on the south coast, and flat in Boston,” Gov. Baker said.

“Today is the highwater mark, in turns of ventilated patients. We have 88 positive COVID patients that are on ventilators” Dr. Dickson said.

As ventilators are scarce across the state, respiratory therapist Rachel Carragher showed Boston 25 News via Zoom how the helmet-based ventilators are being used.

“This is what goes over the patient, this is the peak valve, here is where it delivers up to 100% oxygen” Carragher said.

She added that the goal for the non-invasive machine is to prevent a patient from being intubated.

“The patient it worked great on, he really didn’t want to be intubated. He had progressive respiratory failure, failing on the routine forms of oxygen, and he was willing to give it a go,” said another respiratory therapist.

Hospital officials said that they have about 25 beds left in the ICU, but they work with Baystate Hospital in Springfield. Like all hospitals, loved ones are not allowed in at this time, and nurses and doctors are doing the best they can to communicate with family members over FaceTime.