Worcester County facing major hospital bed shortage

WORCESTER, Mass. — Almost six months after becoming eligible to get it, Sarah Thorstenson was finally convinced to get the COVID-19 vaccine by her own eyes.

“Absolutely, if you would see these people -- if the people at home could see what’s going on in here -- there would be no doubt you would go an get the vaccine don’t wait until it’s too late,” Thorstenson said.

The packed hospital is pressure on emergency services from several sides, including a nurses strike down the road at St. Vincent Hospital.

“Our understanding is that 100 beds that have been taken offline with the St. Vincent work stoppage,” said Justin Precourt, Incident Commander of COVID Response at UMass Memorial Health Center.

Compounding the situation, a staffing situation.

“We currently have over 400 positions posted, that’s all positions – so a couple hundred of those are nursing positions,” said Precourt

Around 600 staff members are on leave, meaning UMass Memorial is down around 1,000 employees.

“It’s all been a bit of a perfect storm to overwhelming the system, we’re struggling every day to keep up with the demand,” said Norman Souci, Chief of EMS UMass Medical Center.

A solution according to staff members -- a familiar one.

“Shots in arms, that’s what I think the solution is,” said Souci.

And a witness to the results when people don’t.

“It’s better to have the vaccine than not have the vaccine after what I’ve seen upstairs absolutely,” said Thorstenson.