As COVID-19 cases continue to decline in Maine, Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick has taken steps to increase visiting hours closer to pre-pandemic norms.
As of Friday, there was one patient admitted with COVID-19 on the Mid Coast. The person was not on intensive care or on a respirator. By comparison, The Times Record reported in mid-February that the hospital had eight patients with COVID-19, while in January there were 25 patients being treated for the virus.
On March 8, the hospital increased the visiting hours – with different capacity and time restrictions – from kl. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Previously, the hospital held two-hour visitation blocks twice daily. Before the pandemic, the hospital maintained an open visitation effort.
“We have reviewed several different iterations of our visits, depending on how COVID spread in the community,” said Mid Coast Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Christopher Bowe. “We know that visitors help our patients improve and recover faster when they can have their family members visit, and we want visitors as much as possible.”
While the hospital is in a much better position and morale among staff is improving, Bowe said, the BA.2 sub-variant of COVID-19 attributed to Europe’s rise is “a little nerve-wracking.”
“If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it is when things get better or worse, they often change quickly,” Bowe said. “We are grateful to be in a better position, but we are keeping an eye out to make sure we can respond quickly if our numbers start to rise again.”
Mid Coast-Parkview Health is the local branch of MaineHealth, a 12-hospital nationwide health care organization. Mid Coast-Parkview includes Mid Coast Hospital, Mid Coast Medical Group, Mid Coast Senior Health and CHANS Home Health & Hospice.
Like other health care organizations, staff shortages in Mid Coast-Parkview Health continue. On Friday, the organization employed 2,159 people and had 257 job openings.
According to Bowe, however, the number of employees out with COVID-19 has coincided with community transfer, which has helped deal with the shortage. Bowe said that when the pandemic was worse, nearly 80 employees were out with the virus, and as of Wednesday, only two were out.
So did Bowe National Guard members who were sent to the hospital until late February was a significant help in filling both environmental and food service roles.
“This National Guard broadcast helped us maintain functions, was able to move patients to the right treatment setting, and was able to feed everyone,” Bowe said. “We could not have been more grateful to have their help.”
The concentration of COVID-19 in Brunswick’s wastewater has been declining since the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention launched the program in January.
On January 27, an effective virus concentration of 1.09 million was reported by the CDC in Brunswick’s wastewater, and that number has dropped to 423,000 on March 16. The latest concentration is an increase compared to the city’s lowest, which, however, was below 200,000 at the beginning of March.
Across the country, there were 300 new COVID-19 cases Friday, the Portland Press Herald reported. While most of the state is classified as either low or medium transmission risk, Aroostook and Washington County in the 2% of counties remain nationally high risk.
The Press Herald also reported that hospital admissions have fallen by 75% since peaking at 436 on January 13 to 107 on Friday.
As of Friday, 233,537 COVID-19 cases, 4,482 hospitalizations and 2,179 deaths have been reported by the Maine CDC across the state since the beginning of the pandemic.
In Cumberland County, 47,791 and 346 deaths were reported as of Friday.
The Maine CDC estimates that just under 77.5% of Maine’s population has received the final dose of a vaccine.