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Mass. hospitals welcome National Guard members, cancel non-urgent procedures as cases rise

A Massachusetts National Guard soldier wears a protective mask while on duty at a food distribution site outside Chelsea City Hall in April 2020. (Michael Dwyer/AP file photo)
A Massachusetts National Guard soldier wears a protective mask while on duty at a food distribution site outside Chelsea City Hall in April 2020. (Michael Dwyer/AP file photo)

The Baker administration has instructed hospitals coping with difficult patient capacity circumstances to postpone or cancel non-urgent procedures as Massachusetts deals with challenges caused by the latest surge in COVID cases.

As of Monday, Massachusetts hospitals that are more than 85% full must stop performing non-urgent surgeries if they require an overnight stay.

State health data show the seven-day average of hospitalizations due to the virus was nearly 1,600 patients statewide. That figure has more than doubled in the last month.

Public health officials hope the directive will free up inpatient beds and preserve already stretched staffing resources.

Gov. Charlie Baker also deployed several hundred members of the Massachusetts National Guard to local hospitals Monday to help relieve pressure on hospital staff as cases climb.

Dr. Melisa Lai-Becker, who runs the emergency department at Cambridge Health Alliance’s Everett hospital, said the Guard members will take on tasks like sitting with behavioral health patients, allowing nurses and doctors to handle other care.

“Because we really need to have everyone working at the top of their license while we work through the number of quarantines, isolations, staff callouts,” she said.

She said the emergency room is currently running at 130% capacity, with just 70% of its regular staffing levels for nurses.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2021 WBUR. To see more, visit WBUR.