Brunswick hospital reports increasing COVID-19 hospitalizations amid delta wave

Mid Coast Hospital Pulmonologist Paul LaPrad receives the hospitals first COVID-19 vaccination in this file photo, administered by Laura Labbe, a registered nurse at CHANS Home Health and Hospice. Photo courtesy of Judy Kelsh

Officials at Mid Coast Hospital are seeing an increase in hospitalized patients amid the most recent wave of COVID-19.

As infections trend toward a record high, the Portland Press Herald reported 587 new cases on Saturday and one additional death. The spike in cases has primarily been attributed to the delta variant, a more contagious strain of COVID-19.

Statewide, according to the Press Herald, there were 204 patients hospitalized with the disease in Maine on Saturday. By comparison, the state saw a peak of 207 hospitalizations in January 2021.

According to Mid Coast spokeswoman Judith Kelsh, five coronavirus patients were hospitalized Friday at Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick — all of whom were unvaccinated. Of those five, four were in the intensive care unit and two were on ventilators.

“The majority of our patients who are quite sick have been unvaccinated,” said Mid Coast Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Christopher Bowe, adding that some vaccinated individuals with high-risk illnesses have also been hospitalized in breakthrough cases.

Of the tests that have been sent to the state from Mid Coast Hospital to confirm the strain, nearly all have been the delta variant. At the hospital there are 93 beds in total, including 11 intensive care beds and enough ventilators to meet ICU capacity.

“We’re bumping near capacity,” said Bowe. “The rest of our hospital beds have been filled on most days.”

Staff are busy, although the hospital has not exceeded capacity, Bowe said, noting that high volumes at times have led to non-acute patients having to wait until another is discharged to get a bed.

According to Bowe, the current caseload at Mid Coast Hospital is not as severe as the initial wave between Dec. 2020 through Feb. 2021, however it is surpassing the April 2021 wave. 

In the entire MaineHealth system — which includes 10 additional community hospitals across Maine and one in New Hampshire — there were 49 confirmed COVID-19 cases being treated as of Friday. Of those patients, 13 were fully vaccinated.

“Staff are fatigued but they are doing a really herculean job providing great care to these patients,” said Bowe, noting that, like everywhere else, staffing is an ongoing issue at Mid Coast Hospital amid the labor shortage. “They are rising to the challenge and performing at an amazing level.”

Hospital officials continue to encourage vaccination to mitigate the spread and health impacts of COVID-19. As of Friday, the hospital has administered 61,829 vaccines and currently offers free shots Monday – Friday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at 81 Medical Center Dr.

“In particular those who’ve considered it and hadn’t yet made a final decision, now’s the time to decide to get fully vaccinated,” Bowe said. “It’s critical for our ability to take care of patients, including patients without COVID in the state of Maine.”

Masks are still required inside all municipal buildings regardless of vaccination status in Brunswick. On Monday, the council is scheduled to vote on whether to expand that mandate to all public spaces.

As of Sunday, 83,910 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in total statewide, resulting in 984 deaths. In Cumberland County, 19,448 cases have been reported and 213 deaths.

According to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, just over 73.5% of Maine residents had received a final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Monday. In Brunswick, it is estimated that 99% of eligible residents are vaccinated.

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