Less than one week after announcing she was activating up to 75 members of the National Guard to serve in non-clinical support roles in Maine hospitals and help handle a surge in COVID-19 cases, Gov. Janet Mills announced on December 14 that 38 members of the National Guard will be deployed to 10 health care facilities beginning December 16.
The governor is deploying 15 members of the National Guard to Saint Joseph’s Manor in Portland and 12 members to Central Maine Medical Center (CMMC) in Lewiston.
An additional 11 members will be spread among Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway, Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bangor, Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Northern Light Mercy Hospital in Portland, and Northern Light Health in Waterville.
The National Guard members assigned to Saint Joseph’s Manor are expected to open an estimated 26 beds, while the members assigned to CMMC will open an estimated 16 swing beds, which allow a patient to transfer between an acute care to a skilled nursing facility without leaving hospital care.
According to the press release in which Mills’ office announced the National Guard assignments, the deployments will “expand capacity at these ‘decompression sites’ and allow hospitals to safety [sic] discharge more individuals, thereby 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.”
Two more members of the National Guard will also be deployed to Rumford Hospital in Rumford and Bridgton Hospital in Bridgton on December 27. Guard members deployed to those facilities will help administer monoclonal antibodies, used to “prevent serious illness from COVID-19 and keep Maine people out of critical care.”
The National Guard are currently scheduled to be deployed. Altogether, the deployments are expected to open an estimated 80 hospital beds, although the exact number will depend on “changing circumstance and need across the health care system.”
In the December 14 press release announcing the deployments, the Mills administration also announced they are submitting two new applications for federal monoclonal antibody teams, which will “complement the non-clinical support of the National Guard and have allowed the Administration to mobilize fewer National Guard than originally anticipated.”
The teams will include clinicians that will support Maine Medical Center (MMC) in Portland and CMMC. Last week, the administration announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved its request to deploy a 15-member COVID-19 Surge Response Team to MMC. The 15-person medical team arrived at MMC on December 11. They will be at MMC for two weeks and will help provide an additional 11 adult patient beds.
The Biden administration has not year approved the state’s second request for a response team at CMMC.
In its December 14 release, the Mills administration also announced it has temporarily waived staffing ratios at nursing facilities, allowing them to accept more patients from hospitals, which has freed up 24 hospital beds since November 23.
This week, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services is also accepting five psychiatric patients at Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta and the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center in Bangor, which is expected to make available five hospital beds.