Rep. Joshua Morris: More health care workers are needed, not less – Lewiston Sun Journal

In the last few weeks, the people of Androscoggin County have received very concerning news regarding their health care services.

On Oct. 8, Central Maine Medical Center announced it would be reducing capacity in the intensive care unit by 50% if it could not find more workers. And shortly after, Turner Rescue, my district’s emergency medical service provider, announced that it was facing difficulties as well.

These two problems intertwined recently when a news story highlighted the sad fact that Turner Rescue’s wait times to transfer patients have increased at CMMC because of a lack of nurses on staff. This creates a dangerous situation, as Turner Rescue cannot respond to other emergency calls if members are tied up waiting to transfer patients at the hospital.

The current situation is unsafe and particularly frustrating because these disturbances are almost completely avoidable.

As hospital officials have said, they’re shutting down operations because of acute staffing shortages, resignations of key staff and because of Gov. Janet Mills’ mandate that health care workers be vaccinated against COVID. There are many members of CMMC staff who don’t feel that the vaccine is right for them, but are not allowed to work at CMMC under Mills’ mandate.

The hospital simply can’t put enough staff on duty to make critical functions work right now.

Keep in mind that Mills’ mandate came during a staffing shortage. So, she’s made the situation worse on both the health care and labor fronts.

Around the state, other health care facilities are limiting services because of Mills’ decisions. We’re seeing news of health care facility shutdowns in every corner of the state.

It’s time for Gov. Mills to realize that her plan is not working. There’s a simple alternative that would help our health care facilities keep running; staff who haven’t yet been vaccinated could be tested for COVID frequently while following all the normal procedures to prevent COVID spread.

This makes more sense than health care facilities being forced to fire frontline workers during a pandemic.

While it is important to remain vigilant in preventing the spread of COVID, is not having access to care when you need it most an acceptable alternative? I think the answer is clear: we need to do everything we can to keep these facilities up and running.

I serve on the Legislature’s health care committee and its labor committee. Legislators on both committees saw this problem coming a mile away; the problem and solution are obvious. Health care facilities are shutting down services because Mills’ policies are making staffing shortages worse. Mills needs to reverse those policies because the simplest solution to the problem is to get more people working in our health care facilities.

I believe that the COVID vaccine is a positive development, and I also believe that people should be able to choose what they put in their bodies. I also am stunned at the speed at which front line workers went from COVID-fighting heroes to people worthy of attack simply because they don’t want to take the COVID vaccine.

Like many of my constituents, I have a connection to CMMC; I have had family members treated there. We should all be outraged that the current policy could affect a loved one’s ability to receive care when they need it most.

This is almost completely avoidable. I hope that the Mills administration realizes it has created a health care crisis, and takes steps to fix it.

Rep. Joshua Morris of Turner serves state House District 75 (Leeds, Livermore and Turner).

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