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Statewide bed crunch hits home at MCH

  • Monadnock Community Hospital Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Monadnock Community Hospital held its first COVID-19 vaccine clinic on Saturday, June 19. Courtesy photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 12/3/2021 4:04:14 PM

With COVID-19 hospitalizations reaching a high since the start of the pandemic, finding space for adult patients continues to be a struggle in New Hampshire.

On Wednesday, there were 403 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in the state, nearly double the amount recorded at the same time last month. According to state health officials, there are more than 7,500 active cases of COVID-19, with around 1,000 new cases being reported daily.

A seven-day average of available hospital beds at Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough showed about half of its 25 in-patient beds were occupied, with one-fifth of those being COVID-19 patients. 

A seven-day summary showed 36 patients with COVID-19 were admitted in the previous week, and 43 confirmed cases that involved an emergency department visit.

While Mondanock Community Hospital does not have a traditional intensive care unit, and transfers most of the COVID-19 patients who need ventilator care to larger hospitals, MCH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Daniel Perli said the hospital is still caring for COVID-19 patients, and more of them than ever before. 

"We are seeing more numbers of COVID patients than we have ever seen throughout the pandemic, and we have more patients being hospitalized than we have ever seen since the start of the pandemic,” Perli said. “It is both more volume of patients, and sicker patients. It's a significant change in what we've experienced so far. And because earlier in the pandemic, we were able to transfer more patients, because of the current bed shortage [MCH] is managing sicker patients."

Because Monadnock Community Hospital only has 25 in-patient beds, Perli said many of the most-critical cases they see are transferred to hospitals with more space and resources. However, more regional hospitals are experiencing the same crunch, Perli said, causing patients to have to be transferred farther and farther afield to receive ICU care.

And it’s an issue affecting not just patients with COVID-19, but in all areas of medical care.

"It's not just ICU beds; there are really no beds at all. Even regular medical and surgical beds are few and far between. This is the challenge right now,” Perli said. “We are transferring [critically ill] patients to Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont. We have daily huddles with the New Hampshire Hospital Association, and across the board, there is a bed shortage."

As is the case nationally, Perli said the vast majority of his patients who require hospitalization are unvaccinated.

"I was taking care of COVID patients throughout the Thanksgiving week, and most of the patients requiring hospitalization are unvaccinated. Among those that are vaccinated, they have shorter stays and are not as ill,” Perli said. “I personally can speak to my clinical time, in that I have not seen a patient that has gotten a booster that has needed hospitalization."

Perli called it “critically essential” that residents receive their vaccination and their booster.

Perli said non-COVID patients who would normally be transferred to other local hospitals are also having to travel farther, and MCH is also having to manage a higher level of acutely sick or injured patients who might have, in other circumstances, have been transferred.

"We are treating more medical patients with higher-acuity medical issues, and adding the increased COVID volumes is adding to that resource scarcity,” Perli said.

Perli said there are two issues driving the bed shortage -- one being the increase in hospitalizations for COVID-19, the other being a staffing shortage.

Perli said there are beds available in New Hampshire hospitals that aren’t being used, because of a lack of nursing and medical staff to tend to them.

"It's not just a space issue, but a lack of clinical resources," Perli said.

Perli advised members of the community to stay vigilant about pandemic precaution measures, including hand-washing, using sanitizer, social distancing, wearing a mask, particularly indoors; and accessing vaccination and booster shots.

"We want our community to get their vaccines; that's still the most important thing that we can do,” he said. “We're seeing a surge. If you are sick or experiencing symptoms, get tested or seek treatment early."

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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