By Beth Germano

WORCESTER (CBS) – It’s a dire situation at UMass Memorial Health in Worcester, about as bad as CEO Dr. Eric Dickson has ever seen. “We’re out of ICU beds, we have a list of people to move into ones that open over the course of the next 24 hours,” he said.

Hospitalizations are well up over this time a year ago. It’s a surge in not just COVID cases, at least 120 in the hospital now, but also other illnesses that makes it more than Deja vu.

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“We’re 10 percent worse off today than last year when COVID was starting to surge again. The emergency departments are more crowded, and the staffing situation is much worse,” said Dr. Dickson.

Surgical technician Sarah Thorstenson sees it firsthand, sometimes 30 to 40 patients at a time waiting on a floor. “If there’s no bed a patient stays on the floor with the nurse, stays in a cubicle divided by curtains with no place else to put them,” she said.

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To keep beds open, the hospital has already rescheduled more than 100 non-emergency surgeries in the last few weeks and is looking for every inch of space. Another option already being considered is re-opening a field hospital similar to one that was opened just a year ago.

Respiratory therapist Barbara Johnson says the conditions take their toll. “It’s a lot of stress, nonstop from the time you come in until the time you go home,” Johnson said.

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And with a new variant on the horizon Dr. Dickson says there is no light at the end of the tunnel. “All that adds up to a rough couple of months here in Central Massachusetts trying to manage the care of patients with or without COVID,” he said.

Beth Germano