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Massachusetts Hospitals Ordered To Reduce Elective Procedures Even Further Due To 'Critical Staffing Shortage'

BOSTON (CBS) -- Gov. Charlie Baker's administration is ordering Massachusetts hospitals to reduce elective procedures even further due to a "critical staffing shortage" in the health care system.

The state initially told hospitals to cut some "non-essential, elective services and procedures by 30%" just before Thanksgiving. Now hospitals must reduce those services by 50%, effective Dec. 15.

A statement from the administration on Friday said that hospitals are seeing high patient numbers, "mostly due to non-COVID related reasons."

"The Commonwealth's hospitals continue to face significant challenges due to staffing shortages," Health & Human Services Sec. Marylou Sudders said in a statement. "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."

New guidance under an emergency order from the Department of Public Health gives hospitals more flexibility with ICU staffing ratios and the ability to "create capacity in alternate spaces. As of Thursday, 93% of hospital beds and 85% of ICU beds in Massachusetts are occupied.

"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," Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association CEO Steve Walsh said.

Baker said Thursday that he's considering enlisting the National Guard to help out with the overloaded health care system.

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