Spike in COVID-19 Hospitalizations Pushes 3 Maine Hospitals to Capacity – Community News
Covid-19

Spike in COVID-19 Hospitalizations Pushes 3 Maine Hospitals to Capacity

Central Maine Healthcare has 152 beds in its three hospitals in Lewiston, Bridgton and Rumford. But on Tuesday afternoon none were open.

Maine has flown past its own record for COVID-19 hospitalizations several times in the past week, with a record of 298 patients reported Tuesday by Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. That number peaked at 207 during last winter’s wave.

It is driving some Maine hospitals to their COVID-19 pandemic peaks for total patient numbers. While most people hospitalized do not have COVID-19, they are combining with record numbers of hospitalizations with viruses and staff shortages to create a dire situation that experts fear could get worse as the holidays approach and the cold weather. begins, causing more people to enter.

As with all 116 beds, all 17 intensive care beds at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston were full on Tuesday, spokesman Jim Cyr said. There were no beds available in the system’s other two hospitals, although Cyr noted that the system continues to treat everyone who comes in. The flagship hospital treated 22 COVID-19 patients on Sunday, nine of whom were in intensive care.

At Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine’s largest hospital, there were 37 coronavirus patients on Tuesday and 93 in the affiliated MaineHealth system, which includes Memorial Hospital in North Conway, New Hampshire. That’s the most COVID-19 hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic, said Dr. Dora Mills, Chief Health Improvement Officer of MaineHealth.

But along with the increase in the number of coronavirus patients, an increasing number of Mainers are also being hospitalized due to other health factors. It appeared to be the result of delays in care due to the pandemic, Mills said, but as it continued into the fall, it became clear that unhealthy behavioral changes brought on by the pandemic played a major role.

People have gained weight during the pandemic and have consumed more alcohol. Cigarette sales rose for the first time in 20 years. An increasing number of patients are also being treated for drug overdose, heart disease and psychiatric problems, Mills said.

Mills compared it to the indirect health effects seen from crises like Hurricane Katrina, referred to COVID-19 hospitalizations, new hospitalizations indirectly due to the pandemic and staff shortages that have hit the health care sector — including nursing homes helping patients out of hospitals. — as three crises facing the health care system.

“I know there’s a lot of focus on more than 296 hospitalizations due to COVID,” Mills said. “That’s the tip of the iceberg.”

Like other Maine hospitals, the Maine Medical Center is increasingly having to treat patients in hallways. At Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, 380 of the 411 hospital beds were occupied on Monday, spokesman Tricia Denham said. She noted that the numbers were a snapshot in time and it was rare for the hospital to use all 411 beds at once because of the accommodation in the private rooms.

In total, 54 of the 58 ICU beds were used, with four off-limits “to ensure our staff can meet the acute needs of our patients,” Denham said. The 380 admitted patients were high for the hospital, but not the peak since the start of the pandemic, Denham said.

At MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta, 185 of the 198 hospital beds were taken Monday, hospital spokesman Joy McKenna said. All of the hospital’s 16 intensive care beds were full, she said. The hospital has put in place a peak plan if it continues to see an increase in COVID-19 patients, McKenna said.

While medical personnel hope for the best, they fear the worst in the wake of the tens of thousands of gatherings that will take place in Maine over Thanksgiving, along with the results of Mainers traveling out of the state for the holidays.

Both ICU and total hospital bed statistics are important because they likely show the different ways this pandemic is affecting hospitals, said Steven Michaud, president of the Maine Hospital Association. But he noted that the system is most at risk of running out of intensive care beds.

Data released Nov. 10 by Northern Light Health of system-wide hospitalizations appears to confirm his suspicion: There were 30 COVID-19 patients in their hospital system who were not in the ICU and 16 who were. While unvaccinated people made up 43 percent of non-ICU patients, they were 69 percent of those receiving intensive care.

“With the holidays approaching, we are asking all people in Maine to take steps to stay healthy, and regarding COVID, to please get vaccinated,” said McKenna, of MaineGeneral.