A second coronavirus field hospital in Massachusetts began taking patients Monday to help deal with the increasing number of COVID-19 hospitalizations across the state.
The first patients were expected to arrive Monday morning to the makeshift hospital created inside the recreation center on the campus of UMass Lowell. The designated field hospital is expected to lessen the burden inside Lowell General Hospital and other nearby medical facilities treating COVID-19 patients.
“The alternate care site is going to be a great addition to the commonwealth in how we create opportunities for exceptional care,“ Lowell General Hospital CEO Jody White said.
The field hospital will open up a 14-bed pod at first but will likely have up to 28 patients inside by the end of the week.
It has capacity for up to 77 patients, if there’s enough staffing.
“Staffing has been a significant challenge in terms of activating this location,” said Amy Hoey, Chief Operating Officer for Lowell General Hospital and the incident commander for the field hospital.
Nurses from around the country have been recruited.
Coronavirus Coverage in Mass.
The patients at the site must be sick enough to be hospitalized, but stable and finishing their treatment for COVID-19 before discharge.
“This is going to be an exclusively COVID positive place,” said Hoey. “So for lower acuity or the least ill of the hospitalized COVID positive patients. They will be cared for here.”
Health officials reported 4,358 new confirmed cases of the virus on Monday, as well as 60 more deaths. The daily report from the state's department of public health showed 2,339 COVID patients are currently hospitalized across the commonwealth. Of that number, 423 were listed as being in intensive care units and 258 are intubated, according to the DPH.
The fear, however, is that the worst is still to come in the state. Hospital officials have been bracing for a post-holiday surge that they say could happen in the second or third week of January.
“No doubt we’re in the midst of a surge right now,” said Dr. Lara Jirmanus, a clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School and a primary care physician in Revere.
While the field hospital in Lowell will help the health care system in what’s expected to be a very difficult month, the vaccine may be the most important tool right now in the hands of medical professionals, Jirmanus says. And she believes the pace of the vaccine rollout has been slow.
“I think that we should be vaccinating a larger percentage of our population than we already have done,” she said. “I think that all of us in the field of healthcare are a little bit concerned about the way that the public sees the vaccine, I think that there’s a lot of trepidation.”