Maine National Guard to deploy 19 members to support Brunswick Hospital amid COVID surge

Members of the Maine National Guard arrive for orientation in an empty wing of Central Maine Medical Center in December in Lewiston. Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

The Maine National Guard will deploy 19 members to Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick on Thursday to help support the facility amid the largest surge in COVID-19 cases yet.

Guard members will take on non-clinical support roles until Feb. 25. The deployment is part of a statewide initiative announced by Governor Janet Mills last week, designed to relieve pressure on 16 Maine healthcare facilities.

According to a statement from Mid Coast Hospital, 15 of the Guard members will work in environmental services, helping to clean the facility, and four will be in food and nutrition, preparing meals for patients and staff.

Both departments faced staffing shortages throughout the latest wave, the statement said, sometimes necessitating internal reassignments and temporary adjustments to operations.

Joe Grant, chief operating officer and vice president of operations for Mid Coast-Parkview Health, said the hospital’s care teams are encouraged by the news of the arrival of Guard members, adding that the staff have worked exceptionally hard over the past few months.

“This deployment will solve some of the most critical staffing challenges we have faced and allow us to maintain adequate staffing even when members of the care team call in sick while the highly contagious variant of the omicron is spreading in our area,” Grant said.

As of Tuesday, Mid Coast-Parkview Health had 254 systemwide job postings, according to the organization’s marketing coordinator, Alex Seise.

Mid Coast-Parkview Health is the local division of MaineHealth, a statewide healthcare organization with 12 hospitals. Mid Coast-Parkview includes Mid Coast Hospital, Mid Coast Medical Group, Mid Coast Senior Health and CHANS Home Health & Hospice.

At Mid Coast Hospital, 12 patients were being treated for COVID-19 on Tuesday, including four in the intensive care unit. Of the total, two were on ventilators and eight had been vaccinated.

In early January, according to Seise, the hospital began postponing some elective surgeries due to temporary staff reassignments. Mid Coast Hospital was at capacity on Tuesday.

Statewide, a total of 169 Guard members will be deployed Thursday, adding to the more than 200 members already supporting COVID-19 response efforts in Maine, according to an announcement from the Mills administration.

“As Maine continues to respond to the omicron surge, these additional deployments will help hospitals care for people with COVID-19 and other illnesses by supporting our strained healthcare workers, who continue to urge Maine residents to get vaccinated,” the Maine department said. Health and Social Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambew in a statement.

Mid Coast Hospital will receive the second-largest number of Guard members behind Maine Medical Center in Portland, which will house 30 members. Other hospitals receiving support include Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport, Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor and St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston.

The impacts of the latest COVID-19 surge continue to have ripple effects throughout the Midcoast community. Last week, Brunswick High School held classes remotely due to staffing issues and an increase in COVID-19 cases in the district. Bowdoin College also announced a remote start for the spring semester last week in anticipation of COVID-19 cases among students.

On January 6, Brunswick officials approved a citywide mask mandate for all indoor public spaces. Freeport and Bath were due to vote on similar masking rules this week.

The Portland Press Herald reported on Tuesday that the number of COVID-19 patients statewide has declined slightly, with 400 total hospitalizations. Since the start of the pandemic, 3,700 people have been hospitalized in Maine with COVID-19.

According to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 75.8% of eligible Maine residents had received a final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Tuesday. In Brunswick, the Maine CDC estimates that 87% of eligible residents are vaccinated.

As of Tuesday, a total of 161,395 cases of COVID-19 were reported in Maine, resulting in 1,658 deaths. In Cumberland County, 32,017 cases have been reported and 648 deaths.

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