By Beth Germano

BOSTON (CBS) – It’s a scramble never experienced at such levels before. “I spend every day trying to find beds for patients,” said Dr. Richard Nesto, Chief Medical Officer for Beth Israel Lahey Health.

An overloaded system struggling to care for every patient that needs it. Unlike a year ago, it’s not the pandemic that is causing the surge.

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“Patients did defer care for a variety of reasons, either they couldn’t get in to see healthcare providers or they were afraid to,” said Katie Murphy an ICU nurse with the Massachusetts Nurses Association. She says patients are coming in sicker as a result.

Dr. Nesto calls it the perfect storm of patients admitted longer, trouble finding rehab space for discharge, and staffing shortages. “Every aspect of patient care in the chain right now is not functioning where it should be because of these factors,” Nesto said.

According to the state Department of Public Health, this week alone, of the 10,386 hospital beds in the state, 9,468 were occupied. It’s particularly critical in northeastern Massachusetts with four ICU beds open and 43 medical/surgical beds.

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“There’s a great deal of moral distress and not just nurses but healthcare providers including physicians who no longer want to work in situations where they can’t deliver the care they want to,” said Murphy.

It’s not healthcare workers leaving the profession, but leaving the bedside says Murphy because of overstressed conditions. It’s having a cascading effect on the system with apparently no light at the end of the tunnel.

“There’s no single factor that will change in the next several months for the situation to improve,” said Dr. Nesto.

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He says the tipping point could come if there’s a post-holiday rush of patients or a higher than anticipated flu season.

Beth Germano