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Worcester Health Centers Increase Capacity to Provide COVID-19 Care

April 09, 2020

UMass Memorial Medical Center and Saint Vincent Hospital are handling the volume of coronavirus patients in Worcester so far, Dr. Michael Hirsh, the medical director of the Worcester Division of Public Health, said Wednesday.

Some help is also on the way, in addition to an already announced 250-bed field hospital at the DCU Center's convention center space, Reliant Medical Group is opening a temporary observation unit at its ReadyMED urgent care site on Shrewsbury Street in Worcester to relieve pressure on overcrowded emergency departments.

The two Worcester hospitals had 130 total coronavirus inpatient cases and 41 who were in intensive care as of Wednesday, according to the city.

"The medical centers are definitely working very, very hard but they're keeping up with the volume as of now," Hirsh said Wednesday in the city's daily coronavirus briefing. "Their ventilator capacity and [intensive care unit] capacity is definitely at the higher end of what they're used to having, but they still have some extra surge capacity thanks to a lot of great planning."

Reliant said Thursday its Shrewsbury Street site will have the capacity to treat nine patients, for conditions such as cellulitis, abdominal pain, kidney stones, urinary tract complaints, or need for hydration, antibiotic therapy, or anaphylaxis management. Capacity there could be expanded if needed.

The DCU Center space is expected to open Thursday if needed for less-severe coronavirus patients. About 500 healthcare workers have signed on to help staff the center, according to City Manager Edward Augustus.

Worcester's two community health care centers, the Family Health Center of Worcester and Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center, are increasing their abilities to better triage patients coming in with potential coronavirus symptoms before those patients are taken to an acute-care hospital.

"Everything short of admitting a patient," Hirsh described it.

Hirsh said he expects the city's peak in coronavirus cases to hit around April 19 or 20.

"A lot can happen between now and then," he said of healthcare professionals staying ready for the expected rise in cases.

Worcester County has a reported 1,296 coronavirus cases, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, including 124 new cases reported Wednesday. Six new Worcester County deaths were reported Wednesday, bringing the total to 30.

The city of Worcester itself has reported 440 cases as of Wednesday.

Grant Welker

Worcester Business Journal

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