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'Still extremely, extremely busy': Patient counts remain high at western Mass. hospitals

Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Kevin Gutting
Daily Hampshire Gazette / gazettenet.com
Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Even as new COVID-19 cases appear on the decline statewide, hospitals across western Massachusetts continue to grapple with high patent counts.

At Cooley Dickinson in Northampton, President and CEO Lynnette Watkins said the hospital recently filled between 90% and 95% of its beds.

"We are still seeing quite a few patients that are COVID-positive or being evaluated for COVID-19," Watkins said. "Things are still extremely, extremely busy."

Watkins said Cooley Dickinson is also seeing many patients with what she termed "advanced disease," because they delayed care during earlier surges of the pandemic.

Staffing issues have also presented challenges. Berkshire Health Systems operates hospitals in Pittsfield and Great Barrington. Spokesperson Michael Leary said more than a dozen National Guard personnel have been a big help.

"They are providing non-clinical care, but it also does free up some staff for additional responsibilities," Leary said.

As for capacity, Leary said Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield is licensed for 300 beds, and a high patient count is between 225-230, which he said has happened in recent months. Right now, Leary said, the hospital has about 200 in inpatient care, a number he described as "manageable but difficult."

Baystate Health operates several hospitals across western Massachusetts. A spokesperson said on Thursday afternoon there were 288 COVID-19 patients across its system, which is a slight decrease from last week. Its main hospital, Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, remains over capacity.