The main entrance to Northern light AR Gould Credit: David DiMinno / The Star-Herald

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine – Northern Light AR Gould has turned the day surgery unit into additional in-patient beds and the two local colleges have loaned their nursing program hospital beds to help Gould handle the influx of COVID-19 cases.

These measures have increased the hospital’s number of beds by eight.

Patients in the acute rehabilitation unit were relocated in the hospital, in order to open a designated COVID-19 unit, and many staff members were relocated as well from other units to meet the growing demand.

Hospitals around the state have had to improvise to deal with the climbing number of COVID-19 cases and their shortages of nurses and other staffing to handle them. On Wednesday, Gov. Janet Mills activated the Maine National Guard to staff overwhelmed  hospitals. Gould had devised a plan early in the pandemic to handle a surge in cases, and began implementing it two weeks ago when the number of sick increased after Thanksgiving.

The hospital has been consistently full lately with patients waiting in the emergency department for an available bed, according to Dr. Jay Reynolds, senior physician executive at Gould. The hospital normally has an average of 30 patient beds in use of its 41 capacity. On Thursday, there were 54.

“This, in turn, affects how many patients we can see in the [emergency department] when many beds are occupied for hours or even days at a time,” Reynolds said. “Some people are not truly understanding how dire the situation is locally right now. To make things improve, we need people to take this seriously and to do all they can to protect themselves and those around them.”

COVID-19 cases at Gould, which had seen very few previously, saw a sharp increase near the middle of November. By Nov. 23, Gould had five confirmed COVID cases, seven by Nov. 25 and 12 by Nov. 29. Cases in December have only been in the double digits. As of Dec. 9, the hospital has 14 confirmed COVID cases.

Many surgeries and cardiac procedures are limited to emergency cases. Outpatient rehabilitation is paused until further notice, as well as hospital visitations.

Reynolds urged the community members to do their part by getting vaccinated, wearing masks, keeping distance from others and using proper hand hygiene.

“This is an unprecedented time at the hospital,” Reynolds said. “We are caring for more patients, patients who are more critically ill, than any other time during this pandemic. We are doing all we can to safely care for those who are within our walls.”

The hospital also continues to offer monoclonal infusions as often as possible to prevent those with COVID-19 from having to be hospitalized, he said.

The University of Maine at Presque Isle and Northern Maine Community College have done their parts by loaning hospital beds from their nursing programs to Gould, allowing the unit to take in more patients. UMPI donated three beds to AR Gould, and NMCC donated six beds; five to AR Gould and one to Cary Medical Center.

“We have worked with the hospital before, and are pleased that we are able to do whatever we can to help,” NMCC President Timothy Crowley said.

“We are glad that we were able to help with this immediate need in the community,” said University of Maine at Presque Isle Director of Marketing and Communications Rachel Rice.

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David DiMinno

David grew up in New York, and moved to Maine to study political science at the University of Maine. In his spare time, he loves hiking, playing tennis and skiing.