Inside a New Hampshire hospital overwhelmed by COVID

Staff at Monadnock Community Hospital in New Hampshire. (Courtesy Monadnock Community Hospital)

COVID infections are surging in much of the country, especially in parts of New England. And New Hampshire is at the epicenter.

More than half of patients who show up in the emergency room at Monadnock Community Hospital in southwest New Hampshire are testing positive. And doctors are having a tough time finding beds for all the patients who need more specialized care.

“What we’re seeing is just unprecedented,” said Dr. Eric Lasky, medical director of the emergency department at the hospital in Peterborough, about 70 miles northwest of Boston. “And it’s been progressively getting worse.”

On a recent day, Lasky treated a 38-year-old woman who was having trouble breathing. He put her on high-flow oxygen and said she was very close to needing intubation. There was no beds free in the rest of the hospital, so Lasky and his team kept her in the ER. They weren’t sure whether she would survive.

“I hope she’s still alive,” he said, after his shift concluded.

Typically, when very sick patients come in, Lasky’s job is to stabilize them — and then move them to a larger hospital. He has a list of some 30 hospitals to call across New England. But lately, none of them has had room.

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