Nurses Say Massachusetts Hospital Ignoring Statewide Order to Halt Elective Surgery

Nurses at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston are alleging that hospital officials are ignoring a statewide order to cancel elective surgeries as the hospital sees an uptick in patients.

Nurses at the Massachusetts hospital asked for officials to investigate the continuance of elective procedures despite the hospital being crowded, the Boston Globe reported.

Nurses said patients who needed urgent surgeries for things like brain injuries and broken bones were waiting for operating rooms at times, according to the letter written by the Massachusetts Nurses Association.

In November, Governor Charlie Baker announced an emergency order to reduce non-essential and non-urgent elective surgeries by 30 percent. He updated his order to say that hospitals struggling with patient capacity need to cut down 50 percent of procedures beginning Wednesday.

The reduction is necessary because hospitals are short-staffed and have a limited number of available beds. Brigham and Women's has been seeing an uptick in patients seeking attention for a variety of problems, including COVID-19.

Over the weekend in Massachusetts, 1,355 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19, increasing more than 200 people in one week, the Globe reported.

"We feel extremely overwhelmed, not just the nurses, but physicians, technicians—everybody is so overwhelmed," said Trish Powers, an operating room nurse at Brigham and Women's. "We're understaffed and have way too many patients."

The order for surgery reduction applies only to procedures that require patients to stay overnight in the hospital. Outpatient procedures, in which patients go home the same day, are not affected by the mandate.

Powers said the hospital is so crowded that after surgery, patients sometimes have to wait for an inpatient bed to open up.

"If you're going to do elective surgery, you need to know the patient has a bed after surgery," she said.

 Brigham and Women's Hospital, COVID-19
Nurses at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston are alleging that hospital officials are ignoring a statewide order to cancel elective surgeries as the hospital sees an uptick in patients. Joseph Prezioso / AFP/Getty Images

The Massachusetts Nurses Association, a union that represents 3,500 Brigham and Women's nurses, told the state health department Monday that operating rooms remain as busy as ever, despite a state order to curtail scheduled surgeries.

Brigham and Women's spokesperson Lori Schroth said the hospital is complying with state rules and that decisions about which surgeries to postpone are based on criteria developed by a group of experts, including doctors and nurses.

Health department officials said they're reviewing the union's complaint.

Baker issued an emergency order to require any hospital or hospital system facing limited capacity to care for patients as long as the delays won't harm patients.

A holiday-season spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations has hit even New England, one of the most highly inoculated areas of the country.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.