STATEWIDE — Maine Health held a virtual press conference Tuesday morning to discuss the health system’s challenges regarding capacity.
Maine Health CEO Dr. Andrew Mueller said capacity issues have been building for several years.
“We have seen declining numbers of enrollees in nursing schools and other healthcare training programs over the last several years across the country. It was built with increasing numbers of baby boomers retiring and leaving the health professions, including nursing. And ultimately has just really accelerated in the midst of the COVID pandemic,” he said.
Mueller said that Maine Health has a current health care worker vacancy rate of about 10 percent.
Additionally, Mueller said that hospitals are seeing the largest number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients since the pandemic first started.
Maine Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joel Botler said there are a number of factors that are impacting the ability of medical facilities to accommodate patients.
“We have both staffing shortages and facility shortages, but it’s not the same every day,” he said. “We had 643 patients at Maine Medical today. There are days when we have 600 patients but not enough care team members to go beyond that, and so that’s a problem.”
Mueller said that while departures from healthcare workers over the state vaccine mandate will have an impact in the short term, the health system does not view the mandate as the main cause of the shortage.
“And while there’s a reality that we’re gonna lose a portion of our workforce, and while the final numbers aren’t in yet, it appears that somewhere between 1.5 and 2% of our workforce may leave, and that’s difficult in addition to the 10 percent that we have, we think that we’re gonna have more capability and less shortages in a real way by ensuring that our workforce is vaccinated,” Mueller said.
Mueller said that since healthcare workers started getting vaccinated there has been a significant decline in Maine Health COVID-related absences.
The healthcare system said it is taking a number of measures to address the capacity issue, such as reducing non-emergent procedures, expanding outpatient access, ensuring enough proper equipment is available via supply chain efforts, and creating financial incentives to add more staff.