After several years of efforts by members of Governor Paul LePage's administration to leave those positions vacant, one state senator says the legislative-mandated hirings are critical.
"They'll be working with drug-affected babies. They'll be working with rural, frail, isolated elderly. They'll be working with T-B cases. They'll be keeping tabs on the health of the citizens of our communities," said Senator Brownie Carson, (D) - Harpswell, who sponsored the legislation enabling the jobs..
In 2016, 48 public health nursing jobs were funded by the legislature, but only 23 of those jobs were filled, according to the legislature's office of fiscal and program review.
Bangor Public Health Director Patty Hamilton said, "Like i said, it's been being cut back for so long, it doesn't recover that quickly, as much as we'd like it to. It's going to take another year or two before it's back up to speed.":
Numerous attempts to get a comment from anyone at the maine department of health and human services on this issue were unsuccessful.
Once the number of nurses employed by the state bounces back to its previous levels, carson says their efforts will be felt across the state.
Carson said, "They set up vaccination clinics. They get into the schools. They get into where there are vulnerable young people and other citizens"
Hamilton said, her staff is looking forward to once again seeing public health nurses in the region.
"We used to have a great system. We'd make home visits. And we'd transfer cases to another nurse. Sometimes we'd do it together or we'd do it by phone call. And now, there's no place to turn to," she said during an interview Thursday
According to Carson, the mandated jobs are a result of bi-partisan legislative support.
If healthcare is a battle, then the nurses are in the trenches.
Hamilton said, "They are absolutely the front line."