Around 30 members of the Maine National Guard walk into Maine Medical Center in Portland on Thursday. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Maine’s largest hospitals welcomed members of the Maine National Guard on Thursday morning as part of the Guard’s latest deployment to hospitals and nursing homes across the state to make up for staff shortages.

Thirty National Guard members arrived at Portland’s Maine Medical Center. They will fill non-clinical roles and work in environmental services for the hospital. 

In Lewiston, 20 National Guard members arrived at Central Maine Medical Center, where they will assist staff at the hospital and its two long-term care facilities. An additional 17 National Guard members arrived at the Lewiston hospital last month to open a swing bed unit that could house patients in need of rehabilitation and nursing care before they could be discharged.

And in Bangor, 16 members arrived at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center, where they will help out in the emergency department and other areas of the hospital by observing and accompanying patients. They are expected to provide support through Feb. 25.

Gov. Janet Mills announced last week the deployment of 169 additional guard members to 16 facilities throughout the state. In December, Mills deployed 38 guard members to 10 facilities.

The deployments have come as hospitals have seen record levels of COVID-19 patients and as they and other health care facilities have seen hundreds of staff members have to stay away from work due to COVID-19.

The state’s hospitals had 412 COVID-19 patients on Thursday, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, including 101 in critical care and 52 on ventilators. That’s down from a record of 436, which the state hit a week ago, but still elevated from the 380 COVID-19 hospitalizations at this time a month ago.

Southern Maine Health Care in Biddeford and St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston — which recently started allowing COVID-positive health care staff to return to work if they were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms — will receive 12 Guard members each.

The other facilities set to receive guard members from the latest deployment are: Bolster Heights Residential Care in Auburn, Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington, LincolnHealth at the Miles Campus in Damariscotta, Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick, Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport, the Rumford Community Home, Spring Harbor Hospital in Westbrook, Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway, Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast, the main campus of York Hospital and the York Walk-In Care facility.

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Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is an investigative reporter at the Bangor Daily News. A graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he worked for Vermont Public Radio, The Burlington Free Press...