Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R) implemented new hospital policies on Friday to combat staff shortages and maintain hospital capacity amid a rise in coronavirus cases.
The governor’s administration announced in a press release adjustments amid a “critical staff shortage” that has played a role in the loss of hundreds of hospital beds since early 2021.
The administration said that under the new policy, qualified medical assistants will be allowed to practice independently, greater staff flexibility will be given to dialysis units, foreign-trained doctors will be able to obtain their authorization more easily, and non-emergency visits to emergency rooms will be discouraged.
“Our healthcare system continues to experience significant workforce and capacity constraints due to longer-than-average hospital stays, separate and apart from the challenges posed by COVID,” said Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders.
“By working closely with our hospital managers, these additional initiatives from DPH will allow for flexibility to maintain our hospital capacity in the coming weeks,” Sudders added.
The state Department of Public Health said hospitals have seen an increase in patients, with a majority from non-COVID-19-related problems.
Some health experts believe that hospitals are experiencing an increase in non-coronavirus-related visits because these patients have not previously sought medical attention due to the pandemic.
Other hospitals in the country have been overwhelmed by an influx of COVID-19 patients amid the rapid spread of the omicron variant, first identified in South Africa last November.
According to data from the Department of Health and Human Services published this week, at least 18 states have less than 15 percent capacity in their intensive care units.
States include Delaware, Georgia, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Kentucky, Alabama, Indiana, and New Hampshire.
New Hampshire has deployed National Guard personnel to help relieve hospitals and long-term care facilities amid the number of cases. Federal teams are expected to deploy to other ailing states for assistance.