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Hospital curtails admissions because of staffing woes

October 12, 2021 GMT

LEWISTON, Maine (AP) — Staffing shortages at one of Maine’s biggest hospitals have forced it to halt pediatric and trauma admissions, sparking a renewed debate over the governor’s vaccine mandate for health care workers.

Citing “acute staffing shortages,” Central Maine Medical Center temporarily suspended but later reinstated heart attack admissions and will be reviewing trauma admissions on an ongoing basis, the hospital said in a statement Tuesday. The neonatal intensive care unit is closing and the suspension of pediatric admissions will continue until further notice, the hospital said.

Earlier this month, the hospital’s chief medical officer said about 70 employees left due to the COVID-19 vaccine requirement. The deadline was Oct. 1 but state officials said they would not start enforcing it until Oct. 29.

Tuesday’s statement followed a Sun Journal report about the curtailments of hospital admissions. Hospital officials told local legislators days earlier that staffing issues have worsened, the newspaper reported.

“They wanted us to understand that this was likely going to affect access for patients and care, and that was the major concern,” state Sen. Ned Claxton told the newspaper.

Republican leaders in the Maine Legislature sent a letter to Democratic leaders urging lawmakers to return to session to include a testing option for health care workers who don’t want the vaccine.

“It is our responsibility to remove this self-imposed rationing of care. The impact on Mainers of doing nothing is devastating across health systems,” the GOP leaders wrote.

Mills said that any attempt to weaken the state’s vaccination requirement is out of line with upcoming federal guidelines and goes against the Maine Hospital Association and other health care organizations.

“Republicans should stop playing politics with a pandemic, and, instead, use their voice to strengthen, not weaken, public health measures,” she said.

In other pandemic-related news:

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JAIL OUTBREAKS

The Penobscot County Jail is only accepting people arrested for the most violent crimes during a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility.

The jail closed to most new arrestees last week after the outbreak was detected, Sgt. Jason Raymond told the Bangor Daily News.

Sheriff Troy Morton sent out an email midweek to all the law enforcement agencies in the county telling them that the jail was not booking arrestees until further notice, Raymond said. The sheriff urged officers to issue court summonses and to bail arrestees from police stations whenever possible.

During the outbreak, law enforcement agencies are transporting people arrested for crimes to jails in Ellsworth, Belfast and Dover-Foxcroft.

The Cumberland County Jail was also dealing with an outbreak last week.

The near-total lockdown has been going on since at least mid-September after nearly two dozen inmates and staff contracted the virus.

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THE NUMBERS

Cases of COVID-19 are continuing to rise all over the state. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended indoor mask use in all Maine counties.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 468.86 new cases per day on Sept. 26 to 580.00 new cases per day on Oct. 10. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 4.29 deaths per day on Sept. 26 to 7.00 deaths per day on Oct. 10.

The AP is using data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering to measure outbreak caseloads and deaths across the United States.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported about 95,000 cases of COVID-19 in the state since the start of the pandemic.