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COVID Cases Spike Forces Massachusetts To Reopen DCU Center Field Hospital In Worcester

BOSTON (CBS) -- A coronavirus field hospital will reopen at the DCU Center in Worcester, Governor Charlie Baker announced Friday. It will provide 240 beds and be operated by UMass Memorial Medical Center.

It's expected to be ready as soon as the first week of December. The governor said UMass Memorial is "basically full" with COVID patients so that's why the state is only re-opening one field hospital for now.

"I think you're likely going to see us set up others," Baker said at a news conference, noting that he wants to do it on a staged basis.

Back in the spring, five field hospitals were opened in Boston, Worcester, Lowell, Dartmouth, and Hyannis to deal with the surge. Ultimately, three were not used. All were closed by early June when cases went down.

"Last time you know this hospital was set up in eight days. We've got a little more lead time this time, so now we know what we need and how to get it going," said Janell Forget, Director of Clinical Operations for the field hospital.

"We were one of the busiest COVID units in the region in the first wave," said the field hospital's medical director John Broach.

Broach said that even though they didn't fill the beds to capacity during the first surge, officials hope it will be the key this second time, to freeing up places like the UMass Memorial Medical Center for non-COVID needs.

"Last time around a lot of that volume, a lot of that care was deferred because of the need to take care of COVID patients, so we're anticipating that there'll be a lot greater need for COVID care at an outside location," said Dr. Broach.

UMass Memorial Medical Center President Dr. Eric Dickson said due to the recent spike in cases, the hospital is starting to cancel elective procedures. "Please. Please. Everyone follow the rules, every day," Dickson said.

Gov. Baker said it's possible to treat COVID-19 patients and provide non-COVID medical care during the surge.

"Last spring, among other things, we made the very difficult decision to have hospitals focus almost exclusively on COVID patients at the expense of almost everything else… And as a result, over that period of time, there were many people who put off getting routine - and in some cases serious - medical care," said Baker. That is not the expectation this fall and winter.

Since Labor Day, coronavirus cases have increased by seven times and hospitalizations have doubled, according to Baker.

"Every single person in Massachusetts needs to appreciate the significance of their role in dealing with the spread of this virus," Baker said. "People need to change their behavior and get serious about who they spend time with, how they act."

He added, "We're living in a pandemic. I know some people would prefer to think otherwise, but it's true; and it's real."

UMass Memorial is looking to hire staff to work at the field hospital. CLICK HERE for more information.

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