Maine hospital to close neonatal ICU after staff resign over vaccination mandate

Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, part of Central Maine Healthcare, will close its neonatal intensive care unit because of staff resignations over the state's COVID-19 vaccination mandate, according to a statement shared with Becker's Oct. 11.

Hospital spokesperson Ann Kim said the state has been notified of the pending closure, and the system is making contingency plans for a worst-case staffing scenario.

"During an update to area lawmakers last week, Central Maine Healthcare officials expressed concerns that longstanding workforce challenges and pandemic-related labor market shifts may become a staffing crisis when enforcement of the state healthcare worker vaccination mandate begins," said Ms. Kim. "We shared with lawmakers our contingency plans for the worst-case scenario based on the maximum number of team members who would not be able to report to work as of Oct. 29."

Maine's mandate took effect Oct. 1 but won't be enforced until Oct. 29.

As of Oct. 11, Ms. Kim said Lewiston-based Central Maine Healthcare's vaccination rate topped 87 percent, although 84 employees had already resigned. She said more than 250 employees had no COVID-19 vaccination record with the system and 170 of them are in direct patient care roles at Central Maine Medical Center.

Central Maine Medical Center may also reduce intensive care unit beds by 50 percent and reduce the number of medical-surgical beds by 40 percent if more employees resign over the state mandate, according to the Bangor Daily News, referring to numbers from area lawmakers, who are advocating for a test-out option in the mandate.

Meanwhile, Central Maine Healthcare is hoping to avoid a worst-case scenario.

"Central Maine Healthcare believes a rigorous surveillance program of unvaccinated team members in combination with the system's existing strict infection protocols (including universal screening and masking for system facilities, use of other personal protective equipment such as eye protection and gowns and aggressive disinfection practices) will meet the intent of the mandate while mitigating the potential staffing crisis the system faces," said Ms. Kim.

Read the full report here.

This story was updated at 3:33 p.m. CDT on Oct. 12. 

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