MaineGeneral Health, which runs a flagship hospital in Augusta, says it lost 191 employees, or about 4% of its workforce, over the COVID-19 vaccination mandate for health care workers. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — MaineGeneral Health has lost 191 employees, or about 4% of its workforce, over the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate that requires health care workers to be fully vaccinated by the end of last week.

All 191 former employees cited the mandate as their reason for leaving, or it was listed as the reason for being fired, according to MaineGeneral spokesperson Joy McKenna. As of Friday, she said 112 of those people were terminated from employment and 79 had resigned because of the mandate.

“Those who left us due to the mandate are split approximately half in clinical and half in non-clinical roles,” McKenna said, when asked to describe the departments those former employees represented. “But they are spread throughout the entire system; there’s not a cluster in any particular area.”

Altogether, MaineGeneral Health has approximately 4,500 employees.

The state vaccine mandate was originally introduced in August and required all health care workers to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1. Maine Gov. Janet Mills then announced in September that the deadline would be extended to Oct. 29, allowing health care workers more time to get vaccinated.

According to the Maine Department of Labor, employees who are fired or who quit for failing to comply with an employer’s COVID-19 vaccination policy are generally disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.


“Refusing to comply with an employer’s policies, including a health or safety policy, typically disqualifies a person from being eligible to receive unemployment benefits,” the department states on its website.

In mid-September, McKenna said about 81% of MaineGeneral’s employees met the mandate requirements, and that at that point 16 members of the staff had resigned and another 4% had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

McKenna said the hospital has made a concerted effort to educate staff and encourage vaccination as soon as the COVID-19 vaccine became available.

“From the time the state mandate was announced, we worked with managers to identify staff who had not yet received the vaccine so we could intensify education efforts and understand the areas of the health system that may need support should we lose staff by the deadline,” she said.

The state’s mandate has been met with fierce opposition from some people who either opposed vaccines or saw the move as government overreach, but the courts upheld the mandate several times. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an emergency appeal from some Maine health care workers to block the mandate.

In the months leading up to the mandate’s deadline, the hospital expanded its “Earn to Learn” program that trains and hires certified nursing assistants.


McKenna said the hospital also started a “Helpful Hands” program, which supports critical work across the entire health system. She said the program includes asking community members to consider volunteering as little as four hours a week to provide non-clinical help, and also reaching out to people in the community with clinical experience for assistance.

“This will enable our nurses and medical staff to work to the top of their license while ensuring that patient comfort and care are attended to,” she said.

McKenna also said in September that the hospital has been working on contingency plans for staffing in advance of the deadline. With these efforts combined, McKenna said she and other hospital officials were optimistic about the facility’s future.

“Taking these actions,” she said, “we believe we will remain able to maintain services.”

Meanwhile, Sara Barry, director of regional marketing and communications at Northern Light Inland Hospital in Waterville, said Monday that she could not release numbers only for that hospital. Instead, she released numbers for Inland, as well as 18 other Northern Light locations, which include its flagship hospital in Bangor.

Barry said 98.11% of Northern Light Health staff were vaccinated (before removal from schedule/termination); 195 resigned and 191 employees are in a seven-day reconsideration period. People in the reconsideration period are staff members who have not resigned but are not currently able to work because they don’t meet the mandate Barry said, and Northern Light is giving those employees seven days to reconsider their vaccination decisions.


Inland Hospital President Terri Vieira said in a statement that the hospital has had some struggles to cover some areas, but is managing right now with no significant impact to access to services. Emergency care is always available, according to Vieira.

Vieira said officials are “sad that some of our colleagues are leaving health care due to the vaccine requirement.”

“We respect everyone’s choices, but it is our obligation to take care of patients in the safest way possible and ensuring that staff members are vaccinated is part of that effort,” she said.

Lori Paradis, spokeswoman for Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan, did not immediately respond Monday to a phone message and email seeking comment.

Staff writer Amy Calder contributed reporting. 

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