Press Release

Press Release Baker-Polito Administration Issues Additional Guidance for Hospitals to Address Staffing and Inpatient Capacity Challenges

For immediate release:
12/10/2021
  • Executive Office of Health and Human Services

Media Contact for Baker-Polito Administration Issues Additional Guidance for Hospitals to Address Staffing and Inpatient Capacity Challenges

Kayla Rosario-Muñoz, Media Relations Manager, Executive Office of Health and Human Services

press release

BostonThe Baker-Polito Administration, working closely with the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association (MHA), today announced additional efforts to provide hospitals with necessary flexibility to ensure sufficient acute care capacity. The Commonwealth’s healthcare system is facing a critical staffing shortage which has contributed to the loss of approximately 500 medical/surgical and ICU hospital beds. Hospitals are also seeing a high level of patients, mostly due to non-COVID related reasons.

On November 23, the Department of Public Health (DPH) released guidance to hospitals to reduce certain non-essential, elective services and procedures by 30%.  Today, DPH released updates to that guidance to further reduce certain non-essential, elective services and procedures by 50%, effective December 15, 2021.

In order to assure hospital inpatient capacity, the Department of Public Health (DPH) also today issued a COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Order that provides hospitals flexibility with respect to ICU nursing staff ratios and guidance that permits hospitals to create capacity in alternate spaces.

“The Commonwealth’s hospitals continue to face significant challenges due to staffing shortages,” said Secretary Marylou Sudders. “Today’s actions will help alleviate pressures by providing hospitals with staffing flexibility in order to reopen inpatient capacity in licensed and alternate space not currently being utilized.”

“Our healthcare community remains under tremendous pressure, and these flexibilities will provide hospitals with additional tools to remain nimble and accessible as they navigate the weeks ahead. MHA and our members are grateful for the ongoing coordination with the Baker-Polito Administration, which has empowered healthcare organizations to respond in real-time and with swift action over the past 21 months. Patients should know that their hospitals and care teams are there for them, just as they have been over the course of the pandemic,” said Steve Walsh, President & CEO of the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association

The order and guidance issued today provides additional tools to support acute care hospitals facing critical workforce and capacity constraints.

Added flexibility relative to staffing ratios will allow hospitals to redirect ICU nurses to other inpatient beds, currently not being utilized due to staffing constraints as well as to staff roles that help to reduce or prevent hospitalizations.  To ensure patient safety and quality of care, hospitals and hospital systems implementing these flexibilities will be required to meet certain criteria as outlined in the Order and guidance to determine safe ICU staffing levels.

To assure capacity, DPH released updates to alternate care space guidance, giving hospitals flexibility to:

  • use licensed and unlicensed space for non-invasive outpatient care (previously, this was limited to COVID-19 vaccination, flu vaccination, and monoclonal antibody therapy administration)
  • use alternate licensed inpatient spaces to care for medical/surgical and ICU adult patients through March 31, 2022. Without this action, this flexibility would have expired on December 31, 2021.

To learn more about this guidance, go to COVID-19 Public Health Guidance and Directives for Health Care Organizations.

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Media Contact for Baker-Polito Administration Issues Additional Guidance for Hospitals to Address Staffing and Inpatient Capacity Challenges

Executive Office of Health and Human Services 

The Executive Office of Health and Human Services is the largest secretariat in state government and is comprised of 12 agencies, in addition to 2 soldiers’ homes and the MassHealth program. Our efforts are focused on the health, resilience, and independence of the one in four residents of the Commonwealth we serve. Our public health programs touch every community in the Commonwealth.

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