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FRAMINGHAM – For three consecutive days this week, MetroWest fire departments were told to divert ambulances from MetroWest Medical Center this week.

Assistant Framingham Fire Chief John Schultz said the situation was “unusual” but “worrisome.”

An email sent to fire departments in MetroWest on April 20, told MetroWest Fire Departments that the hospital and its sister hospital in Worcester St. Vincent was under a “cyber attack.”

SOURCE has emailed the hospital a couple of times this week for a statement and no response.

For about 10 hours on April 20, ambulances were told not to bring patients to the emergency rooms at either MetroWest Medical Center or St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester.

The situation happened again after midnight on April 21 for several hours.

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Then, around noon on April 21, the hospital told local fire departments to divert “stroke” patients to other hospital for several hours.

And again just after midnight on April 22, MetroWest Medical Center requested ambulances take patients to other hospitals.

And again on April 22, fire departments were told again to divert “stroke patients.”

The Fire Departments called the diversion a “code black.”

According to a medical website “Code black in hospitals is typically determined by the bed manager and declares that all non-emergency and outpatient procedures be deferred with very few exceptions.”

But the hospital had other issues beyond the ER. While the administration and the official spokesperson was not responding to the digital news outlet for comment, staff inside the hospital was emailing, texting, Facebook messaging and calling SOURCE about numerous technical issues due to the “IT troubles.”

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One example is that the x-rays machines were not operational, said a MWMC employee.

Staff at Framingham Union said the hospital was not turning away “walk-in” patients to the ER but there were delays due to the IT issues. For example, sometimes patients’ electronic medical records were not assessable.

But elective surgeries were continuing in the hospital, while ambulances were diverted, said another MetroWest Medical Center employee, who asked to remain anonymous.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health was notified of the IT issues at Framingham Union Hospital, which is owned by Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare.

The problems at MetroWest Medical were not just at the hospital but rippling throughout MetroWest communities.

“When we have to divert an ambulance to Newton-Wellesley Hospital, it ties up one of our ambulances for 30 minutes to an hour,” said Framingham Assistant Fire Chief John Schultz.

“Thankfully, Framingham has five ambulances. Not every community in MetroWest has that. Some of the smaller communities have just one or two ambulance. When their ambulance is tied up making a trip to Milford or Worcester, then they sometimes call Framingham when they have a second ambulance call in their community,”explained the Framingham Chief.

Earlier this week, SOURCE broke the news that MetroWest Medical Center CEO Ava Collins was resigning.

Earlier this year, CEO Collins met with the local fire chiefs to discuss ambulance services and MetroWest Medical Center, as several of the MetroWest fire chiefs were unhappy.

Some had their ambulance tied up at the Framingham Hospital for 30 to 45 minutes as there was not staff to deal with the patient when the ambulance arrived.

The Chiefs were unhappy as it was taking an ambulance out of service for more than hour, which meant it was not available for another patient when needed.

“Again, that is not as much a problem for Framingham, as we have 5 ambulances, but for some of the smaller MetroWest Communities it was a big problem. And with out Mutual Aid agreement, if they don’t have an ambulance available for a medical call, they reach out to Framingham,” said Chief Schultz.

“Having the ability to take a patient to a hospital within minutes is critical to their care,” said Framingham Assistant Fire Chief Schultz. “It takes longer to go to Newton-Wellesley or Marlborough or Milford. We would much rather take patients to the nearest hospital.”

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Last week, SOURCE broke news that the hospital plans to close its cancer center.

SOURCE also broke the news that the hospital decided to eliminate live interpretation services and has laid off some staff.

Several leaders including Senate President Karen Spilka and Mayor Charlie Sisitsky gave strong statements against the decision by Tenet Healthcare’s to close the in-patient oncology departments.

“I am extremely disappointed to hear of Tenet’s plan to close the MetroWest Medical Center cancer center in Framingham, which serves medically fragile and underserved residents in my district who may not have the means or opportunity to travel for care,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka.

“I was very disappointed to learn that MetroWest Medical Center announced that they were closing their oncology and radiation oncology departments and telling patients to transfer to their other hospital in Worcester,” said Framingham Mayor Charlie Sisitsky.

“Many people from Framingham snd surrounding communities have depended on the MetroWest Cancer Center for years,” said Mayor Sisitsky. “I think it is unconscionable to now tell these patients that they have to get their cancer care in Worcester.”

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“This announcement follows an upsetting trend of a distant corporate headquarters making decisions that adversely affect our local community. Whether disrupting life-saving care for elderly or immigrant residents, or eliminating local jobs, this decision will have a profound impact on Framingham and MetroWest,” said Senate President Spilka.

State Rep. Jack Patrick Lewis was asked for a statement, but like Tenet Healthcare, he did not respond to the digital news outlet’s request.

“I am disappointed to hear of Tenet’s plan to close their cancer outpatient treatment facility at MetroWest Medical Center.  This decision, which may ultimately provide the ability to keep the remainder of hospital services open at that location, will have a negative impact on area residents going through something that most of us cannot even begin to imagine,” said State Rep. Danielle Gregoire, who will represent a portion of Framingham under redistricting.

 “I have contacted the Department of Public Health to inquire as to whether an appeal from the staff, patients or community is feasible but have been told that is not the case.  I am proud of efforts taken in November by the MA House of Representatives in passing legislation to ensure that privately owned hospitals are subject to vastly increased oversight so that closures like this will not happen in the future,” said Rep. Gregoire, who represents the 4th Middlesex District.

Under the proposal to close the oncology departments, a public hearing is required by the Commonwealth. The date has yet to be set.

By editor

Susan Petroni is the former editor for SOURCE. She is the founder of the former news site, which as of May 1, 2023, is now a self-publishing community bulletin board. The website no longer has a journalist but a webmaster.