FEMA Approves Governor Mills’ Request for Federal COVID-19 Surge Response Team for Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston

January 27, 2022

FEMA also approves 30-day extension of Federal ambulance teams currently in Maine & sends a new ambulance team to Aroostook County

Governor Janet Mills announced today that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved her request for a Federal COVID-19 Surge Response Team on behalf of Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston (CMMC).

Beginning February 1, 2022 and through March 2, 2022, up to 20 military medical personnel from the U.S. Department of Defense – including physicians, nurses, and respiratory technicians – will supplement existing staff at CMMC to provide care for those with COVID-19 and other serious medical issues. They will follow a separate federal team of four clinicians administering vaccines at CMMC who arrived earlier this month and are due to depart today.

Additionally, Governor Mills announced that FEMA has also approved her request for a 30-day extension of the Federal ambulance teams currently in Maine, as well as a request for a new ambulance team on behalf of Cary Medical Center in Caribou. This additional crew will also serve other hospitals in Aroostook County, including Northern Maine Medical Center in Fort Kent, Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital in Presque Isle, and Houlton Regional Hospital in Houlton. Without the 30-day extension, the teams currently in Maine were otherwise scheduled to leave today.

The ambulance teams are assisting Maine emergency medical services (EMS) crews with non-emergency transportation of patients among facilities to match patients with open beds and ensure they are treated in the facility that best meets their health care needs.

“Maintaining critical care capacity is crucial as we continue to confront the Omicron variant,” said Governor Janet Mills. “I thank the Federal government for their approval of these additional clinicians and ambulance crews who will provide care to Maine people, and I remain grateful to our health care workers and National Guard members who are working hard to keep Maine people healthy and alive.”

“FEMA is pleased to be able to assist Maine with securing these teams,” said FEMA Region I Acting Regional Administrator Paul Ford. “Providing resources for our partners on the front lines of the pandemic fight is critical to their success, and our success as a nation.”

“While it’s a hopeful sign that the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has fallen in recent days, ensuring critical care capacity in Maine’s health system remains a top priority as the prevalence of Omicron remains high,” said Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Nirav D. Shah. “This federal support for CMMC and Aroostook County will help hospitals care for people severely ill with COVID-19 and other serious conditions. We appreciate their assistance and the tireless efforts of Maine’s frontline health care workforce and the Maine National Guard.”

“We are very grateful to FEMA and the Mills Administration for making this ambulance unit and staff available to the County,” said Kris Doody, RN and CEO for Cary Medical Center and Pines Health Services. “The pandemic has presented great challenges to all health care providers and other public health and social agencies for more than two years. Given the extreme rural nature of our County, these resources are absolutely critical. We’re also very thankful for the efforts of EMS services throughout the County, who have been very dedicated and on the front lines of this COVID-19 pandemic.”

“This influx of skilled providers is great news for our patients and for our hardworking team members. We are thrilled to have them on our team providing patient care in our ongoing battle against COVID-19,” said Steven G. Littleson, DBA, FACHE, President and CEO of Central Maine Healthcare. “We cannot overstate our gratitude to Governor Mills and Commissioner Lambrew for their tireless work and for providing these and other significant staffing resources for our communities.”

In addition to Cary Medical Center, the following hospitals are hosting the Federal Ambulance Teams, which can be deployed to additional facilities throughout the state as needed:

  • Maine Medical Center, Portland
  • Southern Maine Health Care, Biddeford
  • Franklin Memorial Hospital, Farmington
  • Mid Coast Hospital, Brunswick
  • Central Maine Medical Center, Lewiston
  • MaineGeneral Medical Center, Augusta
  • Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center, Bangor
  • St. Joseph Hospital, Bangor

The majority of people hospitalized in Maine are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19. As of today, there are 400 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Maine, including 84 in critical care and 38 on ventilators, leaving 48 available adult intensive care unit (ICU) beds available in Maine.

These Federal teams join members of the Maine National Guard deployed by Governor Mills to help alleviate short-term capacity constraints at hospitals and maintain access to inpatient health care for Maine people. The deployment of Guard members to hospitals is scheduled through February 25.

The Mills Administration has expanded other support for hospitals to manage the increase of COVID-19 patients, including providing additional flexibility for acute-care hospitals to use Critical Access Hospitals to alleviate capacity constraints and enlisting the Maine Responds Emergency Health Volunteer System that organizes health care, public health, and emergency response volunteers to respond to emergency situations. Waivers of state nursing facility staff ratios during the emergency have opened up 207 beds since November 2021.

These steps come in addition to the Governor providing $60 million in Medicaid temporary rate increases in 2020, $40 million in one-time payments to hospitals, nursing homes, and behavioral health providers in the summer of 2021, and $146 million from the biennial budget last month in one-time COVID-19 supplemental payments to hospitals and nursing facilities to support their staff and patient care.