‘Positive Sign': 2 Coronavirus Field Hospitals in Massachusetts to Close

Lowell General Hospital as well as state and local officials agreed to close the site at UMass Lowell

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Two field hospitals in Massachussetts, set up to lighten the burden on hospitals overwhelmed by coronavirus patients, will close as the state sees a decline in hospitalizations amid the pandemic.

The field hospital at the DCU Center in Worcester is expected to shut down this week, and one at UMass Lowell is set to come down as well, officials said.

Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus said during his Monday afternoon COVID-19 update that the field hospital at the arena and convention center to treat patients who were not sick enough to be hospitalized cared for nine patients Monday, down from 12 on Sunday.

"The goal will be some time this week, probably the middle of this week, to take the DCU facility offline. Another positive sign as we move forward," Augustus said.

The 250-bed medical facility to treat patients with lower acuity of symptoms was the state's first field hospital and was a key part of the surge planning conducted with hospitals to ensure the health care system would not be overwhelmed.

UMass Medical Center oversees the day-to-day operations of the facility and said the facility will not be dismantled and could be reactivated if needed

Meanwhile, a field hospital at UMass Lowell, opened to care for patients from hospitals overwhelmed with coronavirus, is set to be closed.

Officials from Lowell General Hospital, as well as local and state officials, determined that the additional space is no longer required and will be returned to the university in the coming days.

As part of the hospital’s scenario planning for its pandemic response, the alternative care space was created in mid-April with the aid of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

It served as an option to transfer recovering patients who required a lower level of care before returning to home, opening up space for more critical patients at hospitals.

Brian Hitchens was a self-proclaimed COVID-19 skeptic, until he and his wife were hospitalized due to the virus.

In the past two weeks, the number of patients at Lowell General being treated for symptoms of COVID-19 has leveled off, officials said, but the hospital continues to see volumes well beyond its normal critical care capacity.

While models offer some hope that volume may decline in the coming weeks, Lowell General CEO Jody White urged people to remain vigilant.

“We are encouraged that our hospital and region have not experienced the worst-case scenario that would have required use of the alternative care space, but the pandemic in the Merrimack Valley is far from over,” White said.

“We ask that residents continue to support our care teams by social distancing, wearing face coverings and performing diligent hand hygiene so we can all reach the other side of this crisis.”

Copyright State House News Service
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