Maine Gov. Janet Mills announced Tuesday that she is activating an additional 169 National Guard members to help alleviate short-term capacity constraints at hospitals across the state amid the current COVID-19 surge.
The state has reported record COVID hospitalizations in recent days.
The National Guard members will serve in non-clinical support roles at health care facilities across the state, helping to free up clinical staff to focus on patient care. They will be deployed next week and will remain in service through February.
“I wish we did not have to take this step, but the rise in hospitalizations – caused primarily by those who are not vaccinated – is stretching the capacity of our health care system thin, jeopardizing care for Maine people, and putting increased strain on our already exhausted health care workers,” Mills said in a statement. “The National Guard have been an invaluable asset during this public health emergency, and with this new order, we are hopeful that our hospitals will be able to open more beds to provide for surge care."
The state had initially activated 202 National Guard members in November and December to help maintain critical care capacity in Maine's hospitals over the holidays.
"Now, to match the surge in cases from Omicron in Maine, a surge in support is needed to care for people severely ill with COVID-19, as well as those needing hospital care for other reasons," Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah said.
“The Governor’s activation of additional National Guard members is welcome news to our beleaguered hospitals,” added Steven Michaud, president of the Maine Hospital Association. “We are in the midst of the most difficult time of the entire pandemic for hospitals. We are stretched to our bed capacity limits, all the while more and more of our employees are out due to COVID exposures. The stress on our caregivers can’t be overstated. The additional help from the Guard couldn’t come at a better time.”
Mills also announced Tuesday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved her request for federal COVID-19 Surge Response Teams for MaineHealth in Portland and Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. The two teams, consisting of a total of 7 federally-contracted nurses and pharmacists, began arriving in the state on Monday and are scheduled to stay through Jan. 27.
Maine is experiencing record hospitalizations as a result of the COVID-19 surge driven by the omicron variant.
On Tuesday, there are a near-record high 395 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Maine, including 105 in critical care and 60 on ventilators. There are only 62 available intensive care unit beds in Maine.