Beds at Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan are filled to capacity, and have been regularly since September, as the number of COVID-19 cases in Maine continues to surge.

The state set another record Friday with 2,148 new cases, along with eight additional deaths, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention.

The seven-day average of daily cases in Maine stood at 962, another pandemic record, compared to 643 a week ago and 555 a month ago.

Redington-Fairview is a small, independent critical access hospital offering 25 beds, with about 20% of those occupied by patients suffering from COVID-19, according to Chief Nursing Officer Sherry Rogers.

Most COVID-19 patients recover in about five days and are discharged from the hospital. However, some patients experience a long-term recovery over weeks and require the help of physical and occupational therapy at the hospital.

A small percentage of patients who require a ventilator must be transferred to another hospital and sometimes must stay at Redington-Fairview for a few days waiting for a bed. Others choose not to receive aggressive care.


“We have a few patients (who) don’t do well and don’t want aggressive care (who) die here,” Rogers said.

Elective surgeries have been periodically delayed to keep beds open for patients with more urgent illnesses, she said.

Gov. Janet Mills on Wednesday announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had approved the state’s request for a COVID-19 “surge response team” to help Maine hospitals inundated by patients. More than a dozen federal health care workers were headed to Maine Medical Center in Portland to assist.

Redington-Fairview did not request any such assistance and the largest hospital in central Maine, MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta, also has not sought help.

Joy McKenna, a spokeswoman for MaineGeneral, said hospital staff “have been able to maintain inpatient services and have not had to divert patients at this time.”

“We have planned carefully and have dozens of retired staff and community members already in our facilities helping in nonclinical roles, which helps our clinical staff work to the top of their license,” McKenna said.


But if COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise, the Augusta hospital has a “surge plan” in place and is prepared “to take steps to adjust services if needed,” she said.

“With the holiday season now upon us, we are asking all Maine people to take steps to stay healthy, and in regards to COVID, to please get vaccinated,” McKenna said.

MaineGeneral has nearly 200 in-patient beds and 16 critical care beds.

As the number of hospitalizations have risen so have testing rates. Rogers, the nursing supervisor at Redington-Fairview, said more than 2,000 tests are being performed there each month.

The seven-day positivity rate has been higher than the state average. The rate was 18% in October and has been hovering at about 22% the past few days, Rogers said.

Although Redington-Fairview lost about 10% of its staff due to the vaccine mandate for health care workers, many of those positions have now been filled.


The hospital has increased the financial compensation for employees who work longer hours and cover shifts, which has boosted morale.

“It’s sort of thanking them for doing that,” Rogers said. “They see that as a bit of an incentive to pick up that extra time.”

She stressed the importance of getting vaccinated, wearing a mask and keeping physical distance, particularly when gathering inside and visiting with elderly relatives during the holidays.

A spokeswoman for Northern Light Inland Hospital in Waterville and Northern Light Sebasticook Valley Hospital in Pittsfield said the hospitals are busy but “managing it well.”

“At this time we are assessing services daily … to ensure that we have appropriate staff and resources to provide the best care for the people who need it most,” spokeswoman Kathy Jason said in an email.

Seven of the 48 beds at Northern Light Inland were occupied by COVID-19 patients Friday, and six of the 25 beds at Northern Light Sebasticook Valley were filled by COVID-19 patients.

There were 99 COVID-19 patients hospitalized throughout the Northern Light system and 15 of those were people who had been vaccinated, Jason said. Forty-four of them were in the intensive care unit and 15 were on ventilators.

“The increase in patients we are seeing right now is in large part the result of indoor holiday gatherings,” Jason said.

Kennebec Journal staff writer Keith Edwards contributed to this report.

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