Mills activates National Guard to help overburdened hospitals

ELLSWORTH — Governor Janet Mills announced Dec. 8 that up to 75 members of the Maine National Guard will be deployed to health care facilities, specifically nursing facilities and swing bed units, across the state to help alleviate capacity constraints as COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise.

It has not yet been determined which facilities those National Guard members will be deployed to, but they will used in nonclinical, support roles.

“Enhancing the ability of these ‘decompression sites’ to accept more patients 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,” Mills said in a Dec. 8 press release.

The National Guard members also will help administer monoclonal antibodies in an effort to prevent serious illness and keep critical care beds open for Mainers. They will be deployed beginning next week and will work through the end of January 2022.

Additionally, Mills announced she has requested COVID-19 Surge Response Teams, a program under the Biden administration’s COVID-19 Winter Response Plan, on behalf of Maine Medical Center in Portland and Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. If that request is approved, federal clinicians will help provide care to Mainers with COVID-19.

As of Dec. 8, a total of 379 people – a new record – were hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide. Of those hospitalized, 117 are in critical care and 60 are on ventilators.

The decision to activate the National Guard came the same day that Northern Light Health held a media briefing where Dr. James Jarvis, Northern Light’s COVID-19 senior physician executive, announced that starting Dec. 10, non-urgent procedures done at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center may be postponed and will be evaluated individually.

Jarvis said the organization has not had to postpone care yet amid the pandemic but is prepared to make changes amid the current state of affairs, which he called “critical.”

He said that all Northern Light hospitals, except Acadia Hospital, were currently treating patients with COVID-19, including seven patients at Northern Light Maine Coast.

Rebecca Alley

Rebecca Alley

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Rebecca is the Schoodic-area reporter and covers the towns of Eastbrook, Franklin, Hancock, Lamoine, Sorrento, Sullivan, Waltham, Winter Harbor and Trenton. She lives in Ellsworth with her husband and baby boy who was joyously welcomed in June 2020. Feel free to send tips and story ideas to [email protected]

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