About Eric Dickson, MD, MHCM

President and CEO, UMass Memorial Health Care Professor of Emergency Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Hitting the Peak of COVID-19

It’s hard to believe that we have hit the 65th day of our emergency response to the COVID-19 crisis. For more than two months, we at UMass Memorial Health Care and our brothers and sisters in health care have been fighting a valiant battle against this terrible disease. Here are a few updates about our response I’d like to share.

  • Peak of COVID-19: Clearly, we hit the peak of COVID-19 in Central Massachusetts on Friday, May 1, and are plateauing as the number of COVID-positive patients has LakesideICU1not increased, but remains high. We hit our highest mark yet on how many COVID-positive patients we have in our hospitals, and I hope we will begin to see a leveling off in the coming weeks. Since this crisis started, we have cared for 3,238 COVID-positive patients throughout our system, which is remarkable. Fortunately, our surge planning enabled us to take advantage of additional ICU space across the system in post-operative areas and elsewhere to manage the increased volume of critically ill patients (Pictured above is the 2 Lakeside ICU team). That space, in addition to the DCU Center field hospital and the Beaumont Rehabilitation Center, created a safety valve to keep us from being completely overwhelmed with this high number of patients who needed us.
  • Antibody Testing: COVID-19 antibody testing has been getting a lot of attention in the main stream media lately, and we’ve been exploring its viability for us here at UMass Memorial. Late last week, as part of our initial evaluation of antibody testing options and to get an understanding of the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in health care workers, we offered antibody testing from Quest Laboratory to staff at the Beaumont Rehabilitation Center. The results showed that one in five employees there tested positive. We believe that this particular test is one of the most accurate antibody tests currently available. For patients who want to get tests and are willing to pay out-of-pocket costs, they can go to any of the UMass Memorial CareWell Urgent Care locations. Our CareWell centers are using the same Quest test mentioned above.
  • Collaboration and Teamwork: The past few days and in the coming weeks, I’m rounding as much as I can to visit our frontline teams in action and check-in on our behind-the-scenes teams. It’s exciting to see our caregivers who had never worked together before COVID-19, come together to tackle issues that seem insurmountable, caring for patients they normally don’t see in environments that are challenging. This weekend, for example, I visited the 2ACT surge team (shown below) that is working in space2ACT surge ICU team that wasn’t meant to be an ICU. It’s amazing how they’ve adapted the space, reconfigured their workflow, and flexed their usual way of doing things, all to provide the best care they can. I’ve seen our pediatric providers care for elderly adults and family medicine teams care for emergent cases. I’ve seen firsthand how our frontline caregivers are working back-to-back shifts, providing exceptional care, and I know our behind-the-scenes administrative and support teams are working around-the-clock to sustain our patient care needs. I’m inspired by all of our caregivers.

It’s hard to predict what our future holds and what our “new normal” will look like. What I do know is that unlike many other health care systems, we went into this pandemic with an army of problem solvers, and because of that, our ability to respond to this crisis has been far ahead of the responses of most other health care organizations. Our teams are the innovators who will help us continue to lead our way out of COVID-19 and create new opportunities and a thriving health system to care for the people of our region in ways we’ve never seen before.
Thank you to all of our caregivers for what they are doing today, tomorrow and well past this COVID crisis. Now more than ever, I’m humbled to be the President and CEO of this incredible organization.

Eric