Worcester city leaders gearing up to set up field hospital at DCU arena

WORCESTER, Mass. — Officials in Worcester are working to set up a field hospital at a local arena in efforts to provide more care for COVID-19 patients.

The first field hospital in the state will be set up at the DCU Arena in Worcester, a space that typically hosts sporting and entertainment events. Now, it’ll be used to save lives.

UMass Memorial Hospital Dr. Eric Dickson told Boston 25 News three tractor-trailers full of medical supplies from FEMA are expected to be delivered on Wednesday.

The field hospital will be set up to take on a surge of COVID-19 patients as hospitals and healthcare centers have been overloaded with patients already.

“We’re in the middle of this now, a week ago if we did this interview I would tell you it’s the calm before the storm, or the expected storm, we’re in the storm today, we have dozens of patients, very sick patients that are in the hospital,” said Dickson.

The arena will be set up to look like a regular hospital, housing 250 beds needed to take on more patients.

“Beds, partitions between rooms, monitors for patients, EKG machines, there’s a tremendous amount of excellent equipment that goes in there that we will need to take care of the surge of patients that will be here unfortunately in a week or two,” said Dickson.

“When the surge [of patients] does come, [we’ll] be as prepared as we possibly can be so that all the medical needs, those related too COVID-19 and those not related to [the virus] within the community and region of Massachusetts can be met,” said Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus.

According to Dickson, temporary medical staff will be hired to work at the hospital, from nurses to doctors - even medical students who just graduated. The field hospital will treat stable patients, while those who remain critically ill will stay at Intensive Care Units at main hospitals in the state.

“The nature of this disease is it tries to fool you, patients seem fine one minute and then they deteriorate and need to be put in the intensive care unit,” said Dickson.

The field hospital will also have 10 ICU beds where patients in more serious conditions can stay at before being moved to a hospital.

“Our ability to save lives is really going to depend on our ability to balance the capacity we have to care for patients with the demand of patients that is coming in,” said Dickson. “Without those activities we will not be able to meet that demand and there will be lives lost just because of capacity issues.”

While it’ll take a couple of days to set up the hospital, Dickson says they’re expecting to begin treating their first COVID-19 patients by the end of the week.