As hospitals contend with a fast-growing number of COVID-19 patients and widespread staffing problems, Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday that his administration is trying to figure out if there is a way to call upon the National Guard to support doctors and nurses.
The governors of Maine and New Hampshire announced plans in recent days to activate their National Guard units to help alleviate capacity constraints at hospitals in their states. Asked about those announcements Thursday, Baker said he is trying to determine if the Massachusetts National Guard could be called upon without causing more disruption among the health care workforce.
"If there's a way that we can bring the Guard in and involve the Guard as an ancillary and supportive group to support what's going on in the health care system, we'll certainly pursue that and try and put it in place," the governor said, adding that his office has been talking to the National Guard about the issue. "But, I don't want to end up in a situation where I literally take people who, as civilians, are doctors and nurses and folks like that out of the existing health care system."
There were 1,204 people hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Wednesday's update from the Department of Public Health — up nearly 134 percent in the past month and up about 60 percent since the Baker administration announced its order requiring hospitals to scale back nonessential and nonurgent scheduled procedures if they don't have at least 15 percent capacity available.
Baker also said Thursday that he has "no plans at this particular time to pursue field hospitals," which were pressed into action early in the coronavirus pandemic and then again as cases spiked last winter.
"We talk to the hospitals two or three times a week about capacity, generally, and are going to continue to do that going forward," he said. "And if we need to make adjustments based on those conversations, I think we've demonstrated over the past two years we will."