By Anna Meiler

SALEM (CBS) – All Massachusetts hospitals must reduce non-essential, elective procedures by 50-percent Wednesday, as facilities across the state face critical staffing shortages and capacity challenges.

Salem Hospital is one of them. Doctors say the system there is overwhelmed with so many patients coming in because they delayed care earlier on in the pandemic.

“We are in a code red every day, current state. I don’t see the cavalry coming, in terms of staffing,” said hospital president Dr. David Roberts. “We don’t have capacity to take care of the patients that are coming to us now.”

During a virtual Board of Health meeting in Salem Tuesday night, Roberts painted a worrisome picture of the current state of the hospital. He said they are at 98-percent capacity and don’t have enough staff due to people retiring, quitting or nurses traveling for work to earn higher rates.

“The wait times in our ED right now can go up to 12 hours waiting for an emergency, which is obviously terrible and bad care but that’s current state without layering any increase in COVID on current state,” he told the board.

Roberts said 45 patients left the emergency room Tuesday without being seen because they couldn’t wait any longer.

With the Omicron variant spreading and overall COVID cases rising, Roberts said stricter mitigation strategies are needed right now.

“I’m pretty adamant about us doing everything we can to prevent a COVID wave,” he told the board. “Anything we can do to increase vaccination rates will decrease the demand on the hospital. The demand on the hospital right now is barely doable.”

The Board of Health did not vote on whether to bring a mask mandate back to all indoor spaces Salem, but they did unanimously endorse a vaccine mandate for city and school employees.

Anna Meiler