Your gut might tell you a hospital isn’t the safest place to be during the pandemic.

But I’ve found that not to be the case.

I have spent quite a bit of time inside a hospital over the last few weeks because a family member has had two surgeries and multiple appointments.

For all the times I had driven past MaineGeneral Medical Center’s Alfond Center for Health off Interstate 95 in Augusta, I’d never stepped a foot inside until December.

I feared having to go there because of COVID-19, but after several visits, I’m convinced it is safe environment.

Funny, how having firsthand experience can allay one’s anxiety about such things. Knowledge truly is power.


The hospital is so spacious it reminds me of an airport, except you don’t see people packed in there like sardines. There’s plenty of room to be far away from everyone.

The waiting areas are situated so the nearest person from you is across the room.

Everyone, everywhere is wearing masks and in some cases face shields or protective glasses.

When you walk into the main lobby, several attendants are there, ready to take your temperature, ask COVID-related questions and cheerfully direct you to the right places.

The hallways are wide and uncrowded, unlike the hospitals of the old days that seemed claustrophobic, dark, too warm and typically reeking of antiseptic.

Some nurses wear colorful scrubs; others don regular clothes that make the sterile, old-school white uniforms seem too institutional and unfriendly.


Patients are allowed to have one person accompany them to pre-surgery rooms and I was able to visit in a private room after surgery.

Those rooms are airy and tidy with no-touch soap dispensers and sink spouts. Hand sanitizer stations are at every turn.

Being curious about everything, I asked an older, longtime registered nurse how she stays COVID-free.

She said it is important not to touch your eyes, mouth or nose and wear a mask at all times. Many people fiddle with their masks, which one shouldn’t do, she said. Also, washing hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water and making sure to clean creases in your fingers and thumbs is key.

These are simple instructions, but ones that bear repeating. Hearing it from someone who works full time in a hospital and has managed to stay healthy, I think, carries weight.

It amazes me that health care workers maintain a good sense of humor, focus all their energies on their patients and continue to be assiduous and professional in spite of the prolonged pandemic.


The staff continue to move forward, day after day, without passing negative vibes onto patients or visitors.

I was cheered one day to hear a handful of staff at a nurse’s station talking animatedly about their kids. A reminder they have real lives — and patients aren’t the only ones they’re caring for.

I no longer dread the prospect of visiting the hospital, as it is clearly run with careful thought and planning to help make people not only well, but also safe. Before the hospital opened in 2013, I lamented the fact that MaineGeneral would no longer have inpatient facilities in Waterville. I now understand, firsthand, that to draw the best health care professionals to the area and be able to provide the best care, the new hospital was necessary.

During this COVID pandemic, it’s easy to forget people get sick from other causes, too, and need specialized care.

How fortunate we are to have it all, so close to home.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 33 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to


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