Brunswick Hospital grapples with workforce and capacity shortage as COVID-19 cases remain high

Photo courtesy of Mid Coast-Parkview Health

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

Mid Coast-Parkview Health is the local division of MaineHealth, a health care organization of 12 statewide hospitals. 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 number of employees at Mid Coast-Parkview Health was around 2,100, and there were 260 job postings system-wide. A COVID-19 vaccination requirement has led to 31 staff resignations, and the organization says it does not view the tenure as a root cause of the staff issues. Vacancies are important, according to Lois Skillings, president and CEO of Mid Coast-Parkview, among nurses, nurse aides, physician assistants, environmental services, food services, patient services 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 medico-surgical. As of Friday, 84 beds were occupied. Of the 11 intensive care beds, 10 have been filled.

“The crux of the matter right now is our intensive care unit beds, medico-surgical beds, and emergency department beds, and I would tell you they are overflowing most of the time,” Skillings said in an interview on Friday.

The 54-bed medico-surgical surgery unit for general patients has been at full capacity for weeks, according to Mid Coast Hospital chief medical officer Dr Christopher Bowe. In the 22-bed emergency department, patients were placed in the hallway to allow for faster care due to capacity issues, Bowe said, while noting that the use of hallway space is a problem. practice used nationwide, in some hospitals even before the pandemic.

Bowe said Friday Maine Medical Center was at full capacity in the ICU and Southern Maine Health Care Hospital was overloaded, with 15 patients needing an ICU space with just 11 beds.

“We don’t want the public to be afraid that this capacity challenge overwhelms us to such an extent that we are unable to provide care safely, because every day these staff provide incredible care under extraordinary circumstances. Skillings said.

According to Skillings, the staffing problem stems from aggravating factors such as changing demographics as the baby boom generation retires, the general stress of the pandemic, patient mistreatment of staff and the lack of childcare services.

“There has been this fascinating wave in COVID where, for a while, healthcare workers were seen as heroes,” Bowe said. “It hasn’t necessarily changed, there are still a lot of people who are very grateful, but at the same time there is a bit of questioning about health care and vaccinations, and all of a sudden, it was a big change which was suddenly kind to the members of the health care team.

The capacity challenge, according to Skillings and Bowe, is compounded by more hospitalizations due to COVID-19, staff shortages in outpatient care facilities, people now seeking treatment that has been delayed due to the pandemic and an increase in acute mental illnesses.

As of Friday, Bowe said, there were eight COVID-19 patients in the hospital, including three in intensive care. Of the eight, six were not vaccinated.

Vaccination appointments remain available at 81 Medical Center Dr. for first dose injections as well as reminders for those who qualify. Mid Coast hospital administered 65,556 vaccines as of Friday.

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

A total of 104,259 COVID-19 cases were reported across the state on Saturday, resulting in 1,167 deaths. In Cumberland County, 22,138 cases had been reported and 234 deaths.

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