Boston’s major safety-net hospital turned away some ambulances last weekend because ICU units hit capacity


Seriously ill patients showing signs of COVID-19 are approaching the majority of cases in the city’s safety-net hospital, with up to 45 percent of beds taken up by these cases and intensive care units briefly hitting capacity over the weekend.

At its peak this past weekend, Boston Medical Center had admitted a total of 183 patients with confirmed or possible cases of coronavirus among its 410 adult beds, said a hospital spokesman. The prevalence of coronavirus cases now there — more than four out of 10 cases — appears to be the highest rate so far among major area hospitals, according to data tracked by the Globe.

Some ambulances headed for Boston Medical were temporarily diverted to other facilities late Sunday night because of the packed ICUs, though the hospital has since opened up bed space and was no longer turning away emergency crews as of Monday, hospital officials said.

As BMC officials say they are looking for innovative ways to boost capacity, they said their coronavirus numbers are unprecedented and reflect soaring admission. About a week earlier, the hospital had about half the number of coronavirus-related cases.

“We’re feeling a lot of pressure,” said Dr. Ravin Davidoff, the chief medical officer at Boston Medical Center. “It’s a very high percentage.”

Hospital officials did not Monday say how many beds were still available for new patients in the whole hospital, but a 45 percent load from coronavirus-type cases leaves only about half for all the other common reasons people are hospitalized, such as heart disorders, cancer, stroke, and other serious conditions.

Davidoff said critically ill coronavirus patients are staying on ventilators far longer than usual, often 15 days or more, which limits turnover in those coveted ICU rooms. Almost every such room requires ventilators ― or other breathing-assistance equipment ― to be useful to the most seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

Source: Boston Globe