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December 14, 2021

Mills begins deploying National Guard members to 10 health care facilities this week

File Photo / William Hall Northern Light Mercy Hospital received a $1.2 million donation from Jerry and Pam Bruni to address the behavioral health crisis.

Days after activating the Maine National Guard to help relieve capacity-challenged hospitals during the COVID case surge, Gov. Janet Mills is making the first deployments this week. 

Starting Thursday, 38 of the 75 guardsmen who have been called up will be deployed to 10 health care facilities across the state, Mills announced Monday.

National Guard members will serve in non-clinical support roles to provide support to nursing facilities and swing-bed units that accept patients discharged from hospitals experiencing critical care capacity challenges. The deployments will also administer monoclonal antibodies to prevent serious illness from COVID-19, preserving intensive care unit capacity.

The guardsmen are meant to relieve hospitals during a case surge driven mainly by the delta variant, with the majority of hospitalized patients not fully vaccinated. 

As of Monday, 378 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in Maine, including 106 in critical care and 58 on ventilators. There are currently 63 available intensive care unit beds available in Maine.

“We will continue to work closely with our health care and Federal partners to monitor the capacity of our system and to take action when and where it is needed in order to support Maine people," Mill said. "Ultimately, the best and most effective way to relieve the burden on our heroic health care workers is to heed their advice: get vaccinated.”

Deployment details

Of the 38 Maine National Guard members to be deployed this week, 13 will go to Saint Joseph's Manor in Portland and a dozen will be sent to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. The additional personnel will help open an estimated 26 additional beds at Saint Joseph’s Manor and an estimated 16 swing beds at Central Maine Medical Center.

Those deployments will expand capacity at so-called “decompression sites” and allow hospitals to safety discharge more individuals, thereby 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.

In addition, 11 National Guard members will be deployed to Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway, Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bangor, Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Northern Light Mercy Hospital in Portland, and Northern Light Health in Waterville.

Another two will be deployed on Dec. 27 to Rumford Hospital in Rumford and Bridgton Hospital.

The staffing boosts are expected to make an estimated 80 beds available. The deployments are scheduled through Jan. 26, 2022, subject to need.

Separately on Monday, the Mills administration said it was submitting two new applications for federal monoclonal antibody teams that include clinicians for Maine Medical Center in Portland and Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston.

While the federal teams are meant to complement the National Guard's non-clinical support, Mills said her administration will continue to closely evaluate capacity in the coming weeks to determine whether additional guardsmen are necessary.

The Maine National Guard is a part-time military force of nearly 3,000 men and women. More than 100 National Guardsmen are already on orders in the state supporting COVID-19 response efforts.

“Our members are ready to support Maine’s heroic health care workers and help the state through this challenging surge of COVID-19,” said Maj. Gen. Douglas Farnham, Maine’s adjutant general. “We thank the Department of Health and Human Services for its partnership and look forward to working with them and others to expand Maine’s hospital capacity. The people of Maine can continue to count on the Maine National Guard.”

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