Although it is still unknown just how big the increase in coronavirus cases will be in the coming weeks, Massachusetts healthcare leaders are preparing for a surge — all while dealing with a disease that still has significant question marks.
“There has been quiet preparation in the background for years for the eventuality of a potential pandemic — so yes, we are prepared,” Ann Prestipino, the incident commander at Massachusetts General Hospital told Jim Braude on Greater Boston Monday night. “We are very concerned, however, about the magnitude of the surge that might still be ahead of us.”
Prestipino said healthcare workers concerns were threefold: the number of available beds hospitals, and how centers could convert other parts of the hospital to ICU-level care if needed, the amount of available equipment such as respirators, masks and gloves and also the need to maintain a strong and healthy workforce.
“Because of the guidelines that are at the state level with regard to potential exposure and furlough requirements — that is impacting hundreds of people throughout the healthcare system here in Boston …” she explained. “So balancing the need to keep our staff safe but also the needs of incoming patients is going to be quiet challenging.”
Public health experts have pointed in recent weeks to such concerns about capacity as the rationale for ‘social distancing’ policies, which help to slow the spread and, hopefully, prevent healthcare systems from being overwhelmed with a large jump in cases all at the same time.