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MaineHealth seeing 10% vacancy in workforce as hospitals' capacity challenges continue

"It's very clear to us that the vaccine mandate really helps protect and preserve our workforce," MaineHealth CEO Andrew Mueller said.

MAINE, USA — Officials from across the MaineHealth system updated the public Tuesday on capacity challenges the health system continues to face.

The following officials participated:

  • Andrew Mueller, M.D., MaineHealth Chief Executive Officer
  • Cindy Wade, R.N., LincolnHealth President
  • Joan Boomsma, M.D., MaineHealth Chief Medical Officer
  • Joel Botler, M.D., Maine Medical Center Chief Medical Officer
  • Lois Skillings, R.N., Mid Coast – Parkview Health President
  • Mark Fourre, M.D., Coastal Healthcare Alliance President

"The workforce shortages that are plaguing our country right now have certainly not escaped us," Mueller said. "And so we're facing some real workforce challenges."

Mueller said this is not a new phenomenon in health care but rather something that has been building for several years.

Vacancy rates stand at about 10% across the MaineHealth system, which Mueller said is still better than many health systems across the country. Still, he said it's putting a significant strain on MaineHealth.

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Hospitals in Maine have been feeling the stress of finding enough beds for patients, not all of whom have COVID. But as more COVID patients need treatment, it becomes more difficult to find space for all patients, COVID or non-COVID.

"We are seeing the largest numbers of hospitalized COVID patients since the pandemic began right now," Mueller said. "And so that combined with the workforce shortage is putting a real strain on our health care system in general."

Mueller said MaineHealth is seeing an unprecedented demand for services, which stems from a variety of factors. These include delayed care that couldn't happen earlier in the pandemic, as well as other hospital systems in the state needing to reduce their services and thus causing their patients to seek treatment at MaineHealth facilities.

Mueller also said MaineHealth has seen a significant decline in COVID-related absences by staff since the state imposed a COVID vaccine mandate for all health care workers in Maine.

"It's very clear to us that the vaccine mandate really helps protect and preserve our workforce," he said.

He added that while it appears MaineHealth will likely lose somewhere between 1.5 and 2% of its workforce due to the mandate, the mandate will still help the health system keep the workers it has.

"We don't see the vaccine mandate really being the cause of our shortage. This is a shortage that has been brewing for quite some time," Mueller said.