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COVID-19 Hospital Capacity and Surge Response

Learn about the COVID-19 Response Command Center's work to monitor hospital capacity and respond to surge needs

Earlier this spring, the Baker-Polito Administration's COVID-19 Response Command Center worked with medical experts and the Commonwealth's hospitals to model hospital needs for an expected surge in COVID-19 cases. The Command Center released initial surge modeling details on April 2. To respond to an expected gap in ICU and acute beds, the Command Center worked with several hospitals across the Commonwealth to stand up alternate medical sites (or "Field Medical Stations") to support the health care system during the pandemic. These sites are now closing or putting operations on hold given the capacity hospitals currently have to manage the demand on their resources associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Table of Contents

Hospital capacity

Hospitals throughout the Commonwealth have been providing emergency care throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the springtime, hospitals and other healthcare facilities now provide the full spectrum of healthcare services, including preventive and wellness care, and are required to adhere to the policies put in place under the EOHHS’ Reopening Guidance.

Massachusetts has maintained adequate hospital capacity throughout the pandemic, and currently has approximately 50 percent ICU capacity available. Additional ICU and non-ICU hospital capacity can be made readily available through the repurposing of other hospital spaces, should the need be required.

To continue to prepare for a potential second surge, the state is actively monitoring multiple public health and healthcare indicators, including testing capacity, COVID test positivity rate, new COVID cases and hospitalizations, COVID mortality, and the number of hospitals using surge capacity. As influenza season approaches, the state is also closely monitoring influenza indicators and prepared to address both epidemics as necessary.

Alternate Medical Sites

During the springtime, five temporary alternate medical sites (or “Field Medical Stations”) provided additional medical care capacity for hospitals in Massachusetts. The state is closely monitoring indicators and if additional capacity is required to support our hospital system, the state is prepared to rapidly reinstate alternate medical sites.

Crisis Standards of Care Planning Guidance for the COVID-19 Pandemic

On October 20th, 2020, DPH issued revised Crisis Standards of Care Planning Guidance for the COVID-19 Pandemic. (Accessible version)

This Guidance provides direction for the triage of critically ill patients in the event that the public health emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic creates a demand for in-patient critical care resources that outstrips supply. It seeks to ensure that every patient has equitable access to care from which they might benefit, and that tragically difficult decisions about the allocation of scarce in-patient care resources must be grounded only on evidence-based criteria that are clear, transparent, and objective; biological factors related only to the likelihood and magnitude of benefit from the medical resources; and should at all times minimize inequitable outcomes.  Hopefully, these guidelines will never need to be activated.