Mass General President Peter L. Slavin, MD, says the hospital's staff is more prepared and determined than ever as it prepares to care for a surge of patients with COVID-19.

“We are standing on the edge of the ocean in the dark. We’re waiting for the wave to hit and we have no idea how high the wave is going to be.”

– Vicki Jackson, MD, Mass General chief of Palliative Care
(quote in The New York Times, March 26, 2020)

The weeks ahead will be difficult. We know that. We also know that our remarkable staff has already begun to stare down this deadly virus.

Amid the inevitability of the outbreak that’s barreling toward us at Massachusetts General Hospital, we continue to prepare for the surge of patients expected in the next few weeks. Those with symptoms trudge warily into our makeshift testing clinic hoping for the best, while upstairs staff are transforming more and more inpatient floors into COVID units, counting ventilators and using sophisticated modeling to gauge how effectively we can manage scenarios that range from teeming to overwhelming to bleak.

Most of our outpatient programs have stopped, and elective procedures have dwindled. And up until the last few days, even the Emergency Department has seemed eerily quiet as we spent recent weeks gathering up our resources and preparing to do battle.

Fighting in Support of Patients

The weeks ahead will be difficult. We know that. We also know that our remarkable staff has already begun to stare down this deadly virus. SARS-CoV2, the pathogen that causes COVID-19, is yet to be conquered, and perhaps that’s why it feels so ominous – we barely know it; we understand so little about it. In an environment where decisions are based on science and evidence and data, when it comes to COVID-19, there is a disconcerting knowledge void.

In due time, we will develop vaccines to prevent infection from this virus, and we will find medications to treat it, but for now all we can do is fight it by supporting our patients as best as we can through their individual battles with it.

There are so many dedicated heroes in this hospital, motivated by selflessness, compassion and a powerful desire to help and heal.

That’s where our frontline workers and all those who support them come in. There are so many dedicated heroes in this hospital, motivated by selflessness, compassion and a powerful desire to help and heal. We understand that among staff – particularly those who work on the COVID units, ICUs, Emergency Department, Respiratory Illness Clinics and procedural areas – there is palpable fear, anxiety and concern for personal safety and for the well-being of family and friends.

Mass General Stands Together

Yet while so much of our world is complying with orders to stay at home to curb the spread of disease, these health care workers do not have that option, nor do they want it. They come in to the hospital every day and every night, devoted to doing what they do best – tending to the patients who need their expertise, skill and caring. Other staff from specialties and programs that are temporarily shuttered have taken on new roles, pitching in to help meet the rapidly evolving needs of the moment, whatever they may be.

Mass General stands together on that beach, waiting for that wave, more prepared and determined than ever.

To learn more about how you can support Mass General’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.

Peter L. Slavin, MD has been the president of Massachusetts General Hospital since 2003. From 1999–2002, he served as chairman and chief executive officer of the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization, which included more than 1,700 physicians and employed nearly 1,000 of them.