Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) implemented new hospital policies on Friday to combat staffing shortages and maintain hospital capacity amid a surge in coronavirus cases.
The governor’s administration in a press announced adjustments amid a “critical staffing shortage” that has played a part in the loss of hundreds of hospital beds since the the beginning of 2021.
The administration said that under the new policy, qualified physician assistants will be allowed to practice independently, greater staffing flexibility will be given to dialysis units, foreign-trained physicians will be able to obtain their licensure more easily and nonemergency visits to emergency departments will be discouraged.
“Our healthcare system continues to experience significant workforce and capacity constraints due to longer than average hospital stays, separate and apart from the challenges brought on by COVID,” said Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders.
“Working closely with our hospital leaders, these additional actions by DPH will allow for flexibility to preserve our hospital capacity in the coming weeks,” Sudders added.
The state’s Department of Public Health said that hospitals have seen an increase in patients, with a majority from non-COVID-19 related issues.
Some health experts believe hospitals are seeing an increase in non-coronavirus-related visits because these patients did not seek medical attention previously due to the pandemic.
Other hospitals in the country have been overwhelmed by an influx of COVID-19 patients amid the rapid spread of the omicron variant, first identified in South Africa last November.
According to Department of Health and Human Services data released this week, at least 18 states have less than 15 percent capacity in their ICUs.
The states include Delaware, Georgia, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Kentucky, Alabama, Indiana and New Hampshire.
New Hampshire has deployed National Guard personnel to help relieve hospitals and longterm care facilities amid the spike in cases. Federal teams are expected to deploy to other ailing states for assistance.