Maine National Guard deploying 21 members to York Hospital to help amid COVID-19 surge

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  • Janet Mills
    American politician and 75th governor of Maine

YORK, Maine — Twenty-one members of the Maine National Guard will soon report for duty at two York Hospital sites as part of the state's stepped-up efforts to ease the strain COVID-19 is putting on health care systems.

Fourteen guard members will be sent to York Hospital's main campus, and seven will be sent to the York Walk-In Care site, to serve in non-clinical support roles beginning Thursday, Jan. 20, according to an announcement from state officials. The deployments are scheduled to last through Feb. 25, subject to need.

"We are thankful to Governor Mills, FEMA and the Maine National Guard for their assistance that is on the way," said York Hospital President and CEO Dr. Patrick Taylor. "To have them standing shoulder to shoulder with our caregivers in service to this community is heart-warming and a tremendous boost to morale."

Gov. Janet Mills announced the deployments Friday, Jan. 14, when she said 169 members of the Maine National Guard she had activated earlier in the week will deploy to 16 health care facilities across the state.

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York Hospital in York, Maine, is among 16 health care facilities statewide slated to receive a hand from Maine National Guard members beginning Jan. 20, 2022, to ease the strain COVID-19 is inflicting on care providers.
York Hospital in York, Maine, is among 16 health care facilities statewide slated to receive a hand from Maine National Guard members beginning Jan. 20, 2022, to ease the strain COVID-19 is inflicting on care providers.

The deployment plans were developed in collaboration with Maine hospitals with the goal of complementing existing staff and available resources to open additional beds and address need, officials said.

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This new deployment will add to the more than 200 guard members already on orders supporting Maine's pandemic response efforts, officials said.

"I am grateful to the Maine National Guard and to health care workers across the state who are working day and night to save the lives of Maine people," Mills said. "Maine people must now also do their part to stem this crisis: please step up and get vaccinated today, regardless of whether it's your first shot or your third. Doing so may save your life or it may save a child too young to be vaccinated, and it will certainly spare our health care workers and National Guard members."

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Mills activated the additional guard members in response to record-high COVID hospitalizations in Maine, the majority of which are among people who are not vaccinated, officials said. There were 424 people hospitalized with COVID in Maine – a near-record high – as of Friday, including 109 in critical care and 57 on ventilators, leaving only 46 adult intensive care unit (ICU) beds available statewide.

There were three people with COVID admitted at York Hospital, as of Jan. 13.

What the guard members will do

The guard members will help hospitals maintain capacity by freeing up clinical staff to focus on patient care, officials said. Their assistance will also open additional beds at nursing facilities, in swing bed units and at other “decompression sites” that accept patients discharged from hospitals. This, in turn, will allow hospitals to safely discharge more individuals, relieving a bottleneck that will then allow hospitals to provide inpatient care for more people with COVID-19 and ensure delivery of health care for other serious health problems.

The guard members will also help staff testing centers and vaccine clinics; inventory and deliver personal protective equipment (PPE), testing supplies, and vaccines; and support case investigation and laboratory testing.

Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said the guard members have been crucial in helping Maine hospitals maintain their critical capacity since mid-December.

"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 health care workers, who continue to urge Maine people to get vaccinated. We remain grateful to our National Guard neighbors for their service.”

This new deployment will also send 12 guard members to Southern Maine Health Care in Biddeford.

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Additionally, state officials said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved a request for federal surge response teams for MaineHealth in Portland and Central Maine Medical Center (CMMC) in Lewiston. These two teams, consisting of a total of seven federally contracted nurses and pharmacists, began arriving in recent days and are scheduled to stay through Jan. 27. Three clinicians are serving at MaineHealth while four are serving at CMMC, where they will administer COVID vaccines, freeing up Maine clinicians to provide patient care.

The new federal teams also complement the eight federally supported ambulances and crews that are providing transportation of inpatients to available beds among facilities in Maine, significantly shortening the time patients wait for such transfers and opening beds that helps free up critical care capacity. They will continue service in Maine through Jan. 26, state officials said.

This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: York Hospital to get COVID help from 21 Maine National Guard members

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