Baystate Health in crisis mode, operating over capacity due to several issues | News


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(Western Mass News Photo)

SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) — Baystate Health President and CEO Dr. Mark Keroack told Western Mass News that the hospital is experiencing multiple crises. On top of the pandemic, hospital leaders are having trouble finding new staff.

Keroack wants all of us to know that they’re in crisis mode.

“Baystate is currently facing, I think, four major crises,” Keroack noted.

On Thursday, Keroack held a virtual news conference to inform the public of current issues the hospital is facing, specifically four major crises:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic
  • A capacity management issue.
  • An increase in behavioral health needs.
  • A serious staffing shortage.

Keroack said that the hospital is operating 10 percent over capacity and has been for the past few weeks.

“Baystate Health is licensed for 988 beds. Midnight since this, there was 1,095 inpatients at Baystate,” Keroack explained.

He said it’s largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 patients tend to stay longer while the recover, so there’s less turnaround of empty beds. In addition, the extra precautions because of COVID-19, like putting on PPE, have staff taking longer than usual in between patients.

He also said they aren’t rationing care right now, but they might have to if cases continue to increase.

“We might have to make choices who does or doesn’t get one of these technologies,” Keroack added.

Keroack also said there has been an increase of people looking for behavioral health needs and, unfortunately, it’s mostly children looking for that help.

“At Baystate, there’s typically one or two dozen individuals with a slant toward pediatrics. The problem is the availability of inpatient behavioral health beds or partial hospital beds or residential facilities,” Keraock said.

When Western Mass News asked what his biggest concern is, he said the staffing shortage. He explained that Baystate currently has 1,800 job openings and they had an average of about 500 pre-pandemic.

“We’ve really put a lot on our people. We’ve asked them to do a lot,” Keroack noted.

He said one-in-five nurses have left the business or retired and there’s not enough new nurses in the pipeline to make up for those losses. He added that’s due to a shortage of faculty at nursing schools.

“We got waiting lists of people wanting to go to nursing school, but they’re limited by the number of clinical placements and number of faculty to get through,” Keraock said.

In the news conference, Keroak also gave us some insight about the hospitalizations at Baystate. He said he’s seen a continuing increase of positive COVID-19 patients in the hospital, with about 130 patients this week and he said one-third of the cases are breakthrough with vaccinated, older patients coming in with mild symptoms.

However, he noted that the other two-thirds of the cases are unvaccinated patients – mostly younger, experiencing serious symptoms.

Keroak said he’s seen these patients’ lungs fail and they typically have to stay much longer in the ICU.

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