Brunswick hospital grapples with labor, capacity shortage as COVID-19 cases remain high – pressherald.com

Photo courtesy Mid Coast-Parkview Health

Like other health care systems nationwide, officials at Mid-Coast Parkview Health continue to face staffing and capacity challenges as COVID-19 cases remain high in Maine.

Mid Coast-Parkview Health is the local division of MaineHealth, a 12-hospital statewide health care organization. Mid Coast-Parkview includes Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick, Mid Coast Medical Group, Mid Coast Senior Health and CHANS Home Health & Hospice.

As of Friday, the total staff count at Mid Coast-Parkview Health was around 2,100, and there were 260 job openings system-wide. A COVID-19 vaccination requirement led to 31 staff resignations, and the organization says it does not consider the mandate to be a root cause of staffing issues. Vacancies are prominent, according to Mid Coast-Parkview President and CEO Lois Skillings, among nurses, nurse aids, medical assistants, environmental services, food services, patient service representatives and phlebotomists.

Mid Coast Hospital is a 93-bed hospital, made up of various units such as intensive care, maternity, behavioral health, emergency department and medical surgical. As of Friday, 84 beds were occupied. Of the 11 intensive care beds, 10 were filled.

“The crux of the matter right now is our intensive care unit beds, our medical surgical beds and our emergency departments bed, and I would say to you that they’re overflowing most days,” Skillings said in an interview Friday.

The 54-bed medical surgical unit for general patients has been at capacity for weeks on end, according to Mid Coast Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Christopher Bowe. In the 22-bed emergency department, patients have been put in the hallway to allow for quicker care due to capacity issues, Bowe said, although noting that utilizing hallway space is a practice used nationwide, in some hospitals even before the pandemic.

Bowe said Friday that Maine Medical Center was at full capacity in the ICU and Southern Maine Health Care Hospital was overfilled, with 15 patients needing a spot in the ICU with only 11 beds.

“We don’t want the public to be frightened that this capacity challenge is overwhelming us to a point where we aren’t able to give safe care, because every day this staff is giving amazing care under extraordinary circumstances,” Skillings said.

According to Skillings, the staffing issue stems from compounding factors such as shifting demographics as the baby boomer generation retires, general pandemic stress, patient mistreatment towards staff and a lack of available childcare.

“There was this fascinating wave in COVID where for a period of time health care workers were seen as heroes,” Bowe said. “It hasn’t necessarily turned, there’s still plenty of people who are very grateful, but at the same point, there’s a little bit of questioning health care, and questioning vaccinations, and all of a sudden that was a big shift that was kind of sudden a little bit for health care team members.”

The capacity challenge, according to Skillings and Bowe, is put on by more hospitalizations from COVID-19, staffing shortages at outpatient care facilities, individuals now seeking treatment that was delayed due to the pandemic and an increase in acute mental health illnesses.

As of Friday, Bowe said, there were eight patients with COVID-19 in the hospital, three of which were in the ICU. Of the eight, six were unvaccinated.

Vaccination appointments remain available at 81 Medical Center Dr. for both first-dose shots as well as boosters for those who qualify. Mid Coast Hospital had administered 65,556 vaccines as of Friday.

According to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, just over 78.8% of eligible Maine residents had received a final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Saturday. In Brunswick, it is estimated that 99% of eligible residents are vaccinated.

As of Saturday, 104,259 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in total statewide, resulting in 1,167 deaths. In Cumberland County, 22,138 cases had been reported and 234 deaths.

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