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MMC Welcomes Medical Professionals from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

December 13, 2021

Contact: Caroline Cornish
207-662-5146 / ccornish@mainehealth.org

The team of 15 from the federal government’s National Disaster Medical System will provide short-term support for MMC during the current surge.

PORTLAND, MaineMaine Medical Center (MMC) welcomed 15 medical professionals from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Saturday to help manage the unprecedented surge in patient volume that MMC is experiencing due to COVID-19. The team, from the HHS National Disaster Medical System (NDMS), was sent to MMC at the request of the state of Maine, and in collaboration with FEMA.

The federal NDMS team includes physicians, advanced healthcare practitioners, nurses, paramedics, and safety, logistics and administrative support specialists. For the next two weeks, they will provide direct patient care in a new non-COVID, acute care unit, allowing MMC to provide 11 additional beds for adult patients.

“This team allows MMC to admit more patients from our crowded Emergency Department,” said Joel Botler, MD, MMC’s Chief Medical Officer. “While there is no single solution that will alleviate our current capacity challenge, this team will make a significant difference to our team and our patients.

NDMS, which is a part of HHS’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), helps communities respond to and recover from public health emergencies and disasters. Since January 2020, NDMS has conducted 740 missions in 40 states and U.S. territories, deploying more than 6,600 medical, logistical and command and control personnel to help states, territories and jurisdictions respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are incredibly grateful to the federal government and this team of dedicated medical professionals for this support and to Governor Mills for requesting it,” said MMC President Jeff Sanders. “Having additional inpatient capacity at this time to alleviate the stress in our ED is incredibly helpful.”

The NDMS team is expected to stay at MMC for 14 days, after which the state of Maine may submit a request for additional support, if needed.

“This pandemic is not over,” said Tim Tackett, NDMS team commander. “The healthcare providers at MMC are working around the clock to care for the people of this community. They are exhausted yet continue to push themselves to save lives. Today, they are not alone in this fight anymore. My team is honored to be here to provide this hospital the best support possible.

At times this week MMC has had no critical care beds available due to the COVID-19 surge in Maine. Its Emergency Department has been crowded with patients and has been on frequent “diversion,” meaning only the most critical cases are accepted. MMC made the decision this week to close six more operating rooms – in addition to six that had already been closed – to free up care team members to care for patients with COVID-19 and other critical illnesses.

“The most important thing you can do to protect yourself and improve the health of our community is to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or to get your booster if you are eligible,” Dr. Botler said. “The pandemic is affecting care for all patients – not just those with COVID-19.”

Last week, 70 percent of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 across the MaineHealth system, of which MMC is a part, were unvaccinated. MMC urges everyone to get vaccinated if they are not already, and if eligible, to get a booster. Masking when indoors, avoiding crowds and getting tested before traveling or visiting with friends and family are also strategies that can help control spread of the virus.

Video and photos of the arrival of the federal NDMS team at MMC is available for download here: https://assets.mainehealth.org/web/7b422f43ed1fefb/dhhs-teams-arrive/

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About Maine Medical Center
Maine Medical Center (MMC), recognized as a Best Regional Hospital by U.S. News and World Report for 2021-2022, is a complete health care resource for the people of Greater Portland and the entire state, as well as northern New England. Incorporated in 1868, MMC is the state’s largest medical center, licensed for 637 beds and employing more than 9,600 people. MMC's unique role as both a community hospital and a referral center requires an unparalleled depth and breadth of services, including an active educational program and a world-class biomedical research center. As a nonprofit institution, Maine Medical Center provides nearly 23 percent of all the charity care delivered in Maine. MMC is part of the MaineHealth system, a growing family of health care services in northern New England. For more information, visit www.mmc.org.

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