Governor Mills Announces Federal COVID-19 Surge Response Team Coming to Maine

FEMA approves Mills Administration’s request for Federal health care workers at Maine Medical Center who are scheduled to arrive as early as this weekend

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 Maine Medical Center (MMC) in Portland.

Starting as early as this weekend and running through Thursday, December 23rd, fourteen Federal clinicians, including physicians, nurses, and paramedics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' National Disaster Medical System, will supplement existing staff at Maine Medical Center to provide care for those with COVID-19 and other serious medical issues.

“I am grateful to the Biden Administration for quickly recognizing the seriousness of the surge in Maine and for approving our request to send a team of skilled medical professionals to help,” said Governor Mills. “With this federal team and our soon-to-be-deployed National Guard members, I am hopeful that we can begin to alleviate the strain on our health care system and ensure critical care for those who need it. I hope that our second request, on behalf of Central Maine Medical Center, is also approved soon as we continue our work to vaccinate more Maine people against this deadly virus.”

“FEMA is pleased to be able to assist the State of Maine with additional staffing,”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.”

“We’re incredibly grateful to the Governor and the State of Maine for their support in securing the FEMA Disaster Medical Assistance Team at MMC,” said Andrew Mueller, MD, Chief Executive Officer of MaineHealth. “This important and timely assistance will help us as we continue to address the significant capacity challenges at MMC and across our health system.”

Earlier this week, the Mills Administration requested Federal COVID-19 Surge Response Teams on behalf of two Maine hospitals – Maine Medical Center in Portland and Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston – under the Biden Administration’s COVID-19 Winter Response Plan. The request on behalf of Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston is pending.

The Governor also announced yesterday that she is activating up to 75 additional members of the Maine National Guard, and, in consultation with our health care systems, will be deploying them in non-clinical support roles to expand capacity at hospitals.

Maine and the rest of New England are currently experiencing record hospitalizations during a sustained surge of COVID-19 driven almost entirely by the Delta variant. The majority of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Maine are not fully vaccinated. As of today, there are a near record high 373 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Maine, including 118 in critical care and 60 on ventilators. There are currently 34 available intensive care unit (ICU) beds in Maine.

The Mills Administration has also 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. 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.