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Massachusetts Hospital Leaders Say Health Care System Is 'Gasping For Air'

BOSTON (CBS) – Massachusetts hospital leaders issued a dire warning Friday that they're "in crisis" and "every corner of our healthcare system is gasping for air."

The Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association, an organization of dozens of hospitals in the state, wrote a letter to the public saying "the stability of the system hangs in the balance" during this latest surge in the pandemic.

"This surge is different. As scary as things may have been for providers in the early days of COVID, things are now much worse," Dr. Eric Dickson, president of UMass Memorial Health Care, said in the statement.

WBZ-TV spoke with four of the local hospital CEOs behind the message.

"Most hospitals in the region are full," said Emerson Hospital CEO Christine Schuster. "We want to be able to take care of you if you're really sick when you come, and not have to send you someplace else because every other hospital is full as well."

"We're seeing the demand for inpatient hospital services for people with COVID as high as it was with people during the surge," said Wellforce Health System CEO Michael Dandorph. "The problem is that we're doing it with less staff."

According to Thursday's census numbers, hospitals in metro-Boston were 95% full. The most crowded is the northeastern part of the state at 99% capacity. Only four ICU beds were available there, and 10 medical-surgical beds.

The Massachusetts National Guard is helping with non-clinical roles at hospitals like Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

"The emergency departments are really where you see the stress on the healthcare systems," said Dr. Dickson. "There's no additional surge capacity available, patients back up in the emergency departments."

The CEOs want people to take the current surge more seriously, to wear masks and get vaccinated.

They're also asking the public not to visit the ER unless it's an emergency.

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