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UMass Memorial Hospital On 'Elevated Alert' Status After Surge Of New COVID Patients

WORCESTER (CBS) -- A major hospital in Central Massachusetts is on "elevated alert status" after an influx of new COVID patients, including some that are critically ill. UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester said Tuesday that it's seeing very high volume and increased wait times, "putting an enormous strain" on the hospital's resources.

In less than a week, the hospital has gone from 35 COVID cases to 54.

"Fueled by the Delta variant, COVID has made a resurgence," UMass Memorial said in a statement. "While Massachusetts has one of the top vaccination rates in the country, there are still too many unvaccinated people who are more susceptible to becoming critically ill from COVID and requiring hospitalization."

Because of the nationwide labor shortage, the facility currently has more than 400 vacant positions.

"We've seen a lot of earlier retirements, we've seen individuals leave," said Justin Precourt, Chief Nursing Officer at UMass Memorial. "The overall marketplace is such that there's so much demand for services that people can pick and choose where they want to work right now, and that's impacting us as well."

The ongoing work stoppage at nearby St. Vincent's has brought many more patients to seek care at UMass Memorial. Even under enormous strain UMass Memorial said they feel more grateful for their team than ever.

"They have so much resilience and they're so dedicated and compassionate," Precourt said. "I really can't thank them enough for everything they've done."

Central Mass. neighbors who need care are safe and still have a place to go. But the hospital is asking for patience from patients.

"You may at times wait longer than you have in the past," Precourt said. "There is a lot of people putting their heart and soul on the line for their wellness, we just ask for some of their patience as we work through that."

There are 675 people currently hospitalized for a coronavirus-related illness in Massachusetts, with 170 in intensive care.

Providers at UMass Memorial say among their COVID positive patients, the unvaccinated are much sicker than those who have some vaccine protection.

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