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FRAMINGHAM – MetroWest Medical Center in Framingham has diverted ambulances for the past three consecutive weekends, due to a shortage of nurses and staff in their labor & delivery unit. The chair of the department recently submitted his resignation, too.

Last month, the Tenet Healthcare-owned hospital combined the ICU/CCU & CVU united due to a shortage of nurses and staff.

Yesterday, Governor Maura Healey visited Framingham for the first time since taking the oath of office.

In her inauguration speech Gov. Healey said “Our health system is the envy of the world. Yet our hospitals are desperate for staff. Patients are boarding in emergency rooms — spending hours and days in an agonizing wait for care.”

SOURCE asked the Governor what her administration can due to combat the healthcare worker shortage, and what the Massachusetts Department of Public Health can do to ensure that critical care services. are available in our communities, by regulating hospitals like MetroWest Medical Center.

“One, I think it does speak to the real issues around workforce. We know a lot of industries, a lot of professions have really suffered in terms of workforce shortages. We certainly have seen that most acutely when it comes to healthcare. And I think that’s what you’re seeing here and in other places, a real workforce shortage issue. So it is something that we are going to prioritize and work with others on because it’s so important to the health and wellbeing of our residents, to our communities and really to this state,” said Gov. Maura Healey.

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Gov. Healey said the Commonwealth’s acting Secretary of Health & Human Services is in touch with folks about the current situation and we’ll continue to stay in touch. The Governor also announced a Labor & Workforce Secretary yesterday, who she said has experience in workforce development.

“With respect to the regulatory matters that’s sort of taking off this hat, looking at my old hat certainly I’ll look at any legislation or any proposals that come our way to address issues of reliability and affordability when it comes to people’s ability to access health,” said Gov. Healey to SOURCE.

MetroWest Medical Center closed the pediatrics unit at Framingham Union during the pandemic in 2020.

Last year, the hospital tried to close it Cancer Care Center, until Senate President Karen Spilka, and local leaders pushed for an alternative solution.

Next week, Tufts Medical Center will take over the Cancer Center in Framingham from Tenet Healthcare.

Both the Labor & Delivery and the ICU/CCU/CVU each have lost more than a dozen nurses in the last 12 months.

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Staff have told the digital news outlet they are worried that Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare wants to close the labor & delivery unit at Framingham Union Hospital.

Staff also are worried that the current staffing levels are dangerously low that patient safety is at risk.

Every time labor & delivery is closed maternity patients either have to give birth in the emergency room and then be transferred to another hospital or the ambulance has to take them to another hospital to give birth.

SOURCE asked Senate President what the legislature can do to maintain quality health care at our community hospital, and make sure labor & delivery is available to the diverse community of Framingham and MetroWest.

“It’s a much broader question, and I believe that there’s many discussions going on right now with the hospital and with the administration, with the Secretary (of Health & Human Services) and DPH (Department of Public Health), DMH, and many others. All hospitals are experiencing staffing shortages and diversions, and we need to ensure that Metro West Medical Center, both Framingham Union and Leonard Morse have the resources that they need to remain open,” said Senate President Karen Spilka yesterday afternoon.

Tenet is advertising for nurses. It is offering a $20,000 bonus and $100 an hour shifts.

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For three weeks Tenet Healthcare has been quiet, not answering requests for a statement but this afternoon, it did issue one on its Labor & Delivery department’s diversions.

“Over the holidays, MetroWest Medical Center experienced unanticipated staffing challenges that impacted the labor and delivery service. We took immediate action for the safety of our patients including adding resources and support. The labor and delivery service is fully staffed and able to welcome families choosing our hospital for the birth of their babies,” said the entire statement.

But even last night, the hospital was one again diverting ambulances.

And when ambulances are diverted, that means an ambulance from Ashland or Framingham has to go to Newton-Wellesley, or Milford, or Marlborough or even Worcester and Boston. Diversion takes an ambulance out of service longer, adds wear & tear to the vehicle, and racks up the mileage too.

This month, Leonard Morse Hospital, part of MetroWest Medical Center, began advertising for a Chief Operating Officer. The Natick behavioral healthcare facility is also short staffed, which means some units are not open.

“Right now, practically all behavioral hospitals are having a hard time staffing. That’s why I got funding, specifically for Leonard Morse for staffing, to try to keep those staffing levels up, because it’s critical not only for Metro West, but for the whole state that we keep our behavioral health beds up to capacity.”

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Last week, the 11-member Framingham City Council and Mayor Charlie Sisitsky spent more than 30 minutes discussing the crisis at MetroWest Medical Center.

“It’s a serious problem and I’m not convinced that the hospital is doing everything they can to correct the problem. And it’s something that I’m going to be bringing it up at our next meeting with our legislative delegation that they should know about what’s going on because they would have more authority to look into it than us. But it is a serious problem and I think we need to pay attention to it,” said Mayor Sisitsky to the 11-member Framingham City Council earlier this month.

“We need our (state) delegation to come forward and understand that this is critical,” said District 8 Framingham City Councilor John Stefanini. “To me it amounts to constructive closure, which is in violation of the state statute. It’s in violation of their order from the Department of Public Health.”

“I got a couple anonymous calls. I got a couple emails, and my wife has friends that work there because that’s where she started her career. And whatever you heard, it’s worse is all I’m going to tell you. It’s worse than what we’re hearing,” said City Council Chair Phil Ottaviani Jr. “Tenet just doesn’t seem to care. They really just don’t seem to care. We found that out with the Cancer Center. … It is a big problem.”

But At-large City Councilor George P. King Jr. expressed what many inside and outside the hospital in Framingham are hoping for – a new owner other than Tenet.

“Until someone buys, until Tenet is willing to sell that hospital to a more responsible, more local healthcare provider, I have very little hope that we’re going to be able to turn this ship around,” said Councilor King.

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.