ED boarding at crisis levels, Mass General says

Boston-based Massachusetts General Hospital is requesting permission from the state to add more than 90 inpatient beds amid what it says is an "unprecedented capacity crisis." 

The hospital's emergency department has experienced critical levels of overcrowding nearly every day for the past six months, Massachusetts General said in a Jan. 19 news release. The hospital boards between 50 to 80 ED patients every night who are waiting for a hospital bed to open. On Jan. 11, Massachusetts General had 103 patients boarding in the ED, representing one of the most crowded days in the hospital's more than 200-year history.

"While hospital overcrowding has significantly affected patient care for many years, COVID-19 and the post-pandemic demand for care has escalated this challenge into a full-blown crisis – for patients seeking necessary emergency care, as well as for staff who are required to work under these increasingly stressful conditions," David F.M. Brown, MD, president of Massachusetts General, said in the news release.

Massachusetts General is seeking approval from the state to add 94 inpatient beds to its existing campus once construction of a new care facility is complete. State officials originally rejected the hospital's request to add more beds in 2022, citing cost concerns, according to the Boston Business Journal. 

Massachusetts General's request comes as hospitals across the state grapple with capacity issues, workforce shortages and a jump in respiratory illnesses this winter. On Jan. 9, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health issued a memo urging hospitals to expedite discharge planning amid the capacity crunch. Some health plans have also waived the need to obtain prior authorization for short stays in post-acute care facilities. 

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