Southcoast prepares for influx of coronavirus patients

Mar 25, 2020
As Massachusetts and Plymouth County see a rising number of people testing positive for the coronavirus, officials at Tobey Hospital are preparing for what could be an onslaught of patients.
All elective surgeries have been cancelled, and parent organization Southcoast Health is "making preparations for a potential shift in frontline needs," according to spokesman Shawn Badgley. That includes seeking additional supplies "locally and across the globe."

A total of eight patients have been diagnosed with coronavirus at Southcoast Health facilities so far, including one at Tobey Hospital. However, the strict rules about who is eligible for a limited supply of tests mean that many people locally and across the country with symptoms and many who have been exposed to people with symptoms are not being tested at this time.

The patient diagnosed at Tobey walked into the emergency room on the weekend of March 14. A hospital spokesperson said that no other patients in the emergency room at that time were exposed to the patient because all patients are pre-screened for fever and other symptoms prior to entry and kept at least six feet from other patients, in accordance with recommendations from the Center for Disease Control.

It is likely that that number will increase exponentially in coming weeks, as the number of infected people in Massachusetts continues to rise. 

“Southcoast is anticipating an increase in patient volume and managing with our current capacity and stock of personal protective equipment, but we understand things could change, and, in turn, are making preparations for a potential shift in frontline needs,” said Shawn Badgley, the public information officer for Southcoast Health.

To prepare for that influx, all “non-essential elective surgeries” have been suspended, although the hospitals’ family centered units continue to operate, and those scheduled for emergency surgery, who need a procedure for discharge, and those with cancer will continue to receive the care they need.

Asked if Southcoast had an adequate supply of ventilators, masks, gloves, and other materials, Badgley said that the hospitals have an adequate supply of materials according to state and federal guidelines, and are able to quickly move materials between locations as needed.

“Our operational and clinical teams are aggressively sourcing materials locally and across the globe to protect our patients and employees,” Badgley said.

Badgley urged the public to stay home “whenever possible” and follow CDC guidelines.

“This is a team effort, and you are a big part of the team,” Badgley said. “To protect yourself, the community, and our frontline staff, do not visit a Southcoast facility without first calling your primary care provider or giving our emergency departments and urgent care centers a heads up.”

For more information, including online assessments, go to

Southcoast Health has set up a hotline with information about coronavirus, or covid-19, for patients with symptoms, who have been exposed to someone with the virus, or who have travelled recently. The 24/7 hotline has Spanish and Portugese interpreters. Call 508-973-1919.