Massachusetts hospitals expect tough winter regardless of COVID-19

The combination of staffing shortages, longer patient stays and unmet behavioral health needs is leaving Massachusetts hospitals bracing for "yet another difficult winter," according to the head of the state's hospital association.

"Capacity remains a serious challenge within hospitals and ICUs across Massachusetts, and they are each preparing for what will likely be yet another difficult winter," Steve Walsh, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association, told The Boston Globe.

Mr. Walsh said the pressures creating the strain on hospitals have emerged "in the past several months." 

The forewarning comes at a time when COVID-19 has become "more manageable," as Mr. Walsh put it, for the commonwealth's hospitals: As of Nov. 14, COVID-19 hospitalizations were down 5 percent from 14 days before, according to HHS data presented by The New York Times. Johns Hopkins' data shows the 14-day average for new cases in the state is relatively flat. 

But health systems aren't growing complacent. 

"Hospital leaders are tracking public health data on a daily basis, working closely with our state leaders, and stand ready to adjust their operations based on how those trends evolve," Mr. Walsh told the Globe

Mr. Walsh urged the public to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the flu, maintain regular medical appointments, and seek care from their physician or local urgent care center if they are not experiencing a medical emergency.

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