Baystate expresses concern over local COVID-19 cases, toll on healthcare system | News


Dr. Mark Keroack explained Thursday not only the type of people getting sick in Hampden County, but also the amount of burden the hospital is shouldering.

SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) — The president and CEO of Baystate Health is sounding the alarm about the amount of COVID-19 inside their hospital system right now. Dr. Mark Keroack explained Thursday not only the type of people getting sick in Hampden County, but also the amount of burden the hospital is shouldering.

Keroack said the biggest driver of the dire situation within Baystate Medical Center is the fact that Hampden County continues to have the lowest vaccination rate in the state. The already-busy hospital is getting overwhelmed.

The way Keroack described the COVID-19 situation locally is not quite like the overflowing hospitals in the south, but it’s not far off.

As of Wednesday, Keroack said Baystate Health has 18 percent of the state’s inpatient COVID-19 cases, but Baystate only has five percent of the state’s inpatient hospital beds.

“That’s more than three times than what you would expect if the cases were distributed evenly across all the hospitals,” Keroack noted.

When it comes to who is getting sick, Keroack told Western Mass News the low rate of vaccination in Hampden County is playing a role. He said 75 percent of the cases are among unvaccinated people, compared to 25 percent who are vaccinated.

“They’re typically people with chronic medical conditions or older,” Keroack explained.

Combine that with the fact that Baystate Medical Center is the only Level 1 trauma center in the region and the only regional provider for a number of high-level care needs including high-risk pregnancy and cardiac surgery.

“We are regularly at capacity and the only thing that corrects that situation is when we are able to accomplish discharge and open beds to decompress the emergency room,” Keroack noted.

Another complicating factor, Keroack said, is that the hospital system of 12,000 employees currently has 1,400 vacant positions and as the hospital works to implement a vaccine mandate for all employees, he said more than 80 percent of workers have complied. However, he said another 1,600 employees are still not vaccinated with a few medical and religious exemptions granted.

“There are some people who have been reading some of the misinformation that’s out on social media or the internet and are holding beliefs that are, you know, I would say not based in science,” Keroack said.

The policy will take effect October 1 and Keroack said the hospital system is providing expert opinions and emotional support to help persuade hesitant workers in a time where every employee makes a difference.

“We really don’t want to be seeing a lot of resignations when the deadline approaches,” Keroack added.

Baystate said they have been able to fill some vacancies with contractors. Keroack said he is also speaking with civic leaders and local boards of health to convey vaccine safety messaging to the public.

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