Massachusetts Hospitals to Cut Back on Elective Procedures

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U.S.|Strained Massachusetts hospitals will cut back on elective procedures starting Monday.

A Covid ward at a hospital in Worcester, Mass., in January.
Credit...Photo by Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images
  • Nov. 24, 2021, 11:30 a.m. ET

Hospitals in Massachusetts will cut back on nonurgent scheduled procedures starting on Monday because of staffing shortages and longer patient hospital stays, according to the state’s health authorities.

Coronavirus cases have been rising in Massachusetts for several weeks, but hospitalizations have risen at a lower rate. The pressure on hospitals relates to other consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, the authorities said.

The staffing shortage, largely driven by the pandemic, has contributed to the loss of approximately 500 medical, surgical and I.C.U. hospital beds in Massachusetts, according to the state. And hospitals are seeing an influx of patients who need more complex treatment for health issues because they delayed visiting the doctor when Covid cases were higher.

7–day average


Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The seven-day average is the average of a day and the previous six days of data. Currently hospitalized is the most recent number of patients with Covid-19 reported by hospitals in the state for the four days prior. Dips and spikes could be due to inconsistent reporting by hospitals. Hospitalization numbers early in the pandemic are undercounts due to incomplete reporting by hospitals to the federal government.

The order, issued on Tuesday, applies to hospitals that have less than 15 percent of beds available, and applies only to procedures that are scheduled in advance and can be delayed without having a negative effect on patients’ health. It does not apply to urgent and essential procedures.

The authorities said the order would help prepare for the annual increase in hospitalizations typically seen after Thanksgiving and through January.

Marylou Sudders, the state’s secretary of health and human services, said in a statement on Tuesday: “Covid hospitalizations in Massachusetts remain lower than almost every other state in the nation, but the challenges the health care system face remain, and this order will ensure hospitals can serve all residents, including those who require treatment for Covid-19.”

In Massachusetts, new cases have risen from an average of about 1,300 early this month to more than 2,800, and hospitalizations are up 47 percent over the past 14 days, according to a New York Times database. As of Wednesday morning, 740 people were hospitalized for Covid-19, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

State officials worked with the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association to develop the guidelines. Dr. Eric Dickson, the board chair of the association and the president and C.E.O. of UMass Memorial Health, said in a statement: “While we recognize that delaying some prescheduled surgeries may present a significant hardship for patients, we believe it is a necessary step to assure that all of the Commonwealth’s hospitals can continue to meet the needs of patients requiring emergency care.”

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