Hospital, EMS brief officials on readiness

BAR HARBOR — Mount Desert Island Hospital has three intensive care beds and is licensed for 25 total beds, CEO Art Blank told the Town Council Monday. 

The hospital has five ventilators and a new transport ventilator on the way, he said, but “breathing equipment probably not going to be the constraining factor” in the event that the hospital is faced with a significant number of cases of COVID-19. Beds aren’t, either. 

“We have a number of rooms that we use as call rooms in each of two former hotels,” Blank said, “and we also have been offered use of a dormitory if that’s needed. But one caution I would make is that in terms of actually providing medical care outside of the hospital campus, one of the overriding factors that’s constraining us is a total breakdown of our supply chain. So we could not equip another facility.” 

The hospital has been getting an allocation of supplies from government agencies, he said. Postponing nonessential surgeries has also helped conserve the supply of personal protective equipment.  

Also, under normal procedure, a patient needing ventilator care would be transferred to a larger hospital. 

“It’s something we do know how to do but it is beyond the scope of what we’re set up to do,” Blank said. “If we get to a place where volume is exceeding our capacity, we’d do what we always do and that’s turn to our regional partners.” 

Barbara MacPike, the hospital’s infection preventionist, told councilors that MDI Hospital has an agreement with Northern Light’s ambulance service (formerly Capitol Ambulance), which has an ambulance equipped specifically to transport Covid-19 patients in something called an air pod. 

“We would use them before we would use any of our local ambulances” to avoid exposing staff and contaminating the ambulance itself, she said. 

Hospital medical staff and the town’s ambulance staff are all being screened on a daily basis to monitor their health. 

“We’ve got a wonderful medical team,” Blank said, “one of the best in a small rural hospital in the country.” 

Matt Bartlett, chief of the fire department and EMS service, noted the “uncertainty that every day is brining right now,” and thanked his staff for the “cooperation, teamwork and professionalism they bring every day.” 

MacPike noted that planning for a pandemic is similar to the training for a mass casualty incident that the hospital and EMS agencies train for. 

We are as prepared as we can be, until the point that we’re not,” she said. “We have done so much preparing and planning, but then it all depends on how big that outbreak is. Flattening the curve is truly where hospitals are most effective: 20 people tomorrow is going to be very difficult for us, whereas 20 people over a week we could handle better.” 

“I think the social distancing that’s happened in our community has given us a real head start,” Blank said. 



Mount Desert Island Hospital is accepting donations of critical supplies for frontline care providers and community partners, including protective equipment and sanitizing items. 

Donations can be made seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and may be dropped off in the main entryway of the hospital, adjacent to the emergency room. 

The following supplies are being accepted: unused N95 respirators and surgical masks (packages can be opened, as long as they have not been used), unused cloth surgical masks, unopened packages of other protective masks, unopened packages of disposable gloves, unopened containers of hand sanitizer, unopened containers of disinfectants and disinfecting wipes and packaged and unused protective goggles. 

The hospital cannot accept donations of any other supplies at this time and must keep storage space at the donation sites available for the items above. 



Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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