Update: At 3 p.m., hospitals began discharging patients after the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency announced it was safe to do so, provided they were not heading to a restricted area in the city such as Watertown and parts of Cambridge, Allston/Brighton, Newton, and Waltham. Patients, staff, and visitors who couldn’t head home were invited to stay for the night.
With Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev still at large, Boston hospitals are currently in lockdown mode; staff members and patients can’t leave until Boston police lift the citywide travel restrictions.
Outpatient clinics have been closed, and scheduled appointments with primary care physicians and specialists have been canceled for the day.
Hospital staff said Friday morning that patients who were scheduled for discharge today will not be allowed to leave until the lockdown is lifted, and remain in their rooms or in lounges set up in the hospitals for them.
All of the hospitals are open to receive patients in need of urgent medical care, and emergency rooms remain open.
On Longwood Avenue police presence was intense. Police officers were stationed outside Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and police stood outside the entrance of Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
“We have told employees not involved in patient care or the direct support of patient care to stay home and others to follow state instructions, said Julie Jette, a spokeswoman at Tufts Medical Center. “We have closed clinics but had some patients already here for appointments, so we are caring for them and advising them to stay here until the shelter-in-place order is lifted. We are doing surgeries if patients are already here.”
Patients who were scheduled to have chemotherapy or dialysis today, however, should call their providers to see if those outpatient services are still available or will be available in another location, Jette said.
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center followed lockdown procedures, and police guarded all hospital entrances, letting in only staff who showed identification. One man who walked up to the West Campus clinical center and pleaded to be let in; he said his father was in the intensive care unit. After a brief discussion, officers allowed him inside.
Boston Children’s Hospital cancelled all outpatient appointments as well and isn’t discharging patients, the hospital stated on its website. The Waltham and Jamaica Plain locations are also closed. “Neither Patient Relations nor the Center for Families have received any calls from parents unable to get in,” said spokesperson Robert Graham.
Chris Murphy, spokesman for St. Elizabeth in Brighton, said the hospital cancelled all surgical procedures for Friday.
Massachusetts General Hospital is following the same lockdown restrictions. The hospital’s website states: “Access to the MGH has been restricted to the Main (White) Entrance. Only staff with an MGH ID are allowed to enter the hospital at this time.”
MGH patients who were ready for discharge have been taken to Tea Leaves and Coffee Beans on the ground floor of the Wang Building, according to the hospital website. The Blum Center has also been set up as a second site and is now receiving patients and families.
Mass. Eye and Ear surgeons are doing procedures on patients who arrived before the lockdown at its Longwood location, but it cancelled, until further notice, all outpatient visits in its two Boston locations. “Our suburban locations are seeing patients as usual,” said spokeswoman Mary Leach.
Boston Medical Center is fully staffed and inpatient care remains uninterrupted. Inpatients are not being discharged from the hospital until further notice. Outpatient appointments for Friday, April 19, have been cancelled, according to the hospital’s website.
Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Boston, Spaulding Hospital Cambridge and Spaulding North End are all in lock down also. We are asking visitors to stay home. Also our outpatient clinics in Brighton, Downtown Crossing, Boston and Cambridge are closed, any other outpatient sites please call the center directly prior to going.
Brigham and Women’s Hospital is allowing patients with scheduled appointments, vistors with identification, and employees with staff badges into the hospital. “Staff and patients who choose to leave, do so as an individual decision, but it is not recommended,” said spokesperson Tom Langford. “Patients with questions about an ambulatory appointment today are advised to contact their doctor’s office.”
Massachusetts General Hospital physician Dr. Suzanne Koven said she hadn’t yet made it into the hospital before the lockdown and was planning on staying home for the time being. “It was pretty confusing,” she said. “It was unclear whether my outpatient office would be open or not. Apparently some patients did come in.”
The hospital sent out a staff message at about 9 a.m. telling staff who hadn’t come in yet to stay put, said Koven, who writes a blog for boston.com. “The staff who are in the office are taking calls and filling prescriptions etc., and the rest of us are on beeper.”
Patients can check hospital websites for updates on what services the hospital will be providing.