Elective Surgeries Ordered Cancelled, National Guard Activated

 by Tom MarinoDecember 21, 2021

Governor Charlie Baker’s office announced an order for hospitals to cancel elective surgeries effective December 27, the activation of 500 members of the Massachusetts National Guard to address the non-clinical support needs of hospitals and transport systems, and issued a new mask advisory.

The Department of Public Health ordered all hospitals and hospital systems in Massachusetts to postpone or cancel “non-essential, non-urgent scheduled procedures that may require the use of bed capacity and/or services” effective December 27. The reduction in services does not apply to hospitals or hospital systems that maintain or exceed a threshold of 15% capacity.

Statewide, hospitals are currently operating at over 90% inpatient capacity.

The order says the policy will be reviewed no later than January 31, but may be continued if necessary.

National Guard Activation

Up to 300 National Guard members begin training this week to support 55 acute care hospitals and 12 ambulance service providers across the state. Guard personnel can serve in support hospital operations for up to 90 days. The deployment begins on December 27.

DPH identified five key roles non-clinical Guard personnel can serve to support:

  • Non-emergency transport between facilities: driving ambulances used to transfer patients between two healthcare locations such as when patients are discharged from a hospital and transferred to a long term care facility.
  • Patient observers: providing continuous or frequent observation of a patient who is at risk for harm to themselves.
  • Security support: helping to maintain a safe workplace.
  • In-hospital transport: bringing patients via wheelchair or, if needed, stretcher, from their patient room to tests such as x-ray or CT scan, or from the emergency department to their inpatient floor.
  • Food service/tray delivery support: delivering patient meals to their rooms

New Mask Advisory

DPH also released an updated mask advisory the recommends all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask or face covering in indoor, public spaces.

The recommendations from DPH particularly urged individuals that meet the following descriptions to wear masks in indoor, public places.

  • Weakened immune system.
  • Increased risk for severe disease because of age or an underlying medical condition.
  • Someone in their household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated.”

Masks remain required when using public or private transportation and within

  • Healthcare facilities
  • Congregate care facilities
  • Emergency shelter programs
  • Houses of correction/ Department of Correction prisons, jails and other correction facilities
  • Health Care and Day Services and Programs operated, licensed, certified, regulated, or funded by the Commonwealth including the Executive Office of Health and Human Services or one of its agencies
  • Home health care workers
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