BOSTON (CBS) — Several critically ill patients aboard a Boston MedFlight helicopter — bound to one of the city’s hospitals — were flown into a harsh reality of late. ICU beds are not available.
“That has happened half a dozen times in the last 10 days,” said Boston MedFlight CEO Maura Hughes.
Instead, they went to hospitals in neighboring states – Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Hampshire.
“It’s not a great solution,” says Hughes, “especially for the patient’s family, when you tell them, ‘Yes, we have a bed. But it’s in Connecticut. ”
Boston MedFlight – a nonprofit that took 5,700 patients in last year by helicopter, plane and ground ambulance – is calling attention to the troublesome “perfect storm” that is filling the beds sick locally – and not just in the intensive care unit.
Experts say Covid-19 is part of the problem – but not the problem itself.
In the beginning, Boston MedFlight is carrying more sick patients today – and more of them – because so many people are not getting medical care because of their health problems during the pandemic.
“What we’re seeing is a huge influx of patients with serious illnesses,” Hughes said.
The second factor is that hospitals are severely understaffed. Nearly a fifth of healthcare workers have been laid off since spring 2020 — half a million in August alone — according to the US Department of Labor, according to the US Department of Labor.
And third, it’s the mental health crisis – the hospitals are, unfortunately, finding themselves – on the front lines.
“Emergencies are taking care of those patients, but they really need psychiatric care, not medical care,” Hughes said.
“It looks like all three of those things are happening at the same time,” she added.
The situation has caused the MedFlight team to care for some patients for a much longer time than in the past – when they were looking for a hospital to admit patients.
It is important to note that there is no index finger here. Everyone seems to agree on the challenges – and several other major cities are dealing with the same – that sometimes lead to deadly results.
But the local solution – at this point – is elusive.
“Sometimes it’s not the complicated medical care, it’s the logistics,” says Hughes.
But think-tanks are taking place in hopes of getting things sorted out – before a Covid holiday outbreak or just a seasonal flu – to make out-of-state landings more common.
Boston MedFlight is a nonprofit organization that provides transportation and medical care regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. The $45 million budget was funded by a consortium of hospitals and private donations.