Mass. Helping Hospitals Under Strain

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BOSTON (State House News Service) — Facing strain from factors that it says are mostly unrelated to the COVID-19 resurgence, Massachusetts hospitals have resurrected load-balancing efforts to help facilities address three trends: shortages of workers to staff beds, workforce burnout, and the daily boarding of 500 or more patients who are awaiting behavioral health services.

Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association officials said Monday that COVID-19 cases in hospitals here are only "creeping" upwards due to the state's higher vaccination rate, writing in their Monday Report that the situation compares favorably with states like Tennessee, Florida and Texas where patients are being turned away due to capacity issues and field hospitals are reopening after shutting down earlier in the pandemic.

However, in the past two weeks, and with Delta variant impacts growing, the state has agreed to a request from Massachusetts hospitals to resume load-balancing coordination under an infrastructure featuring five Health and Medical Coordinating Coalitions and run by the state Department of Public Health.

"The communication and coordination made possible through the regional HMCC meetings allows for load balancing between and within regions and timely situational awareness, which in turn allows hospitals to collaborate to provide the best care to patients under increasingly trying circumstances," the MHA said, with its president, Steve Walsh, describing a "worsening behavioral health crisis" and impacts from patients who delayed care during the pandemic.

The hospital association says 500 or more patients a day are "stuck" in hospitals awaiting behavioral health services.

Written by Michael P. Norton/SHNS

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