Governor orders Massachusetts hospitals to collaborate for COVID-19 surge

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It wasn't unusual to see once-competing hospitals become collaborators for resources and staff when the nation faced the first COVID-19 surge in early spring. Now in the face of a second surge, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker is ensuring that type of partnership doesn't occur only from a place of goodwill, but from a formalized, regional plan in partnership with the local hospital association, according to WBUR.    

Starting no later than Nov. 17, Massachusetts hospitals, grouped into five areas, will meet in a cadence determined by which tier they fall into. Those in tier 1, which is deemed low risk, must meet at least every other week, while those in tier 4, deemed high risk, must meet at least daily. 

In these meetings, designated senior leaders from hospitals will share updates on their bed capacity, staffing levels, personal protection equipment supplies and other resources, and ability to accept transfer patients, according to the report. 

The state will monitor hospital capacity in each region and may suspend non-urgent care regionally if more than 80 percent of beds are full for a week or more, according to the report. All hospitals are required to attest by Nov. 17, at the latest, that they have developed a tiered resurgence plan that will guide their response to capacity constraints and plan for reductions in elective, non-urgent procedures and services, if needed.

There are three goals for this collaboration: to avoid any one hospital or region becoming overwhelmed by a surge in cases; to continue elective and non-urgent care; and to ensure patients throughout the state have equal access to the best care possible.

Massachusetts, and Boston especially, is known for its fiercely competitive hospital markets. One other intent of the formalized collaboration with rules and scheduled meetings is that it will reduce disparities between hospitals, especially those that serve low-income patients who face greater risk for infection and hospitalization.

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