Maine’s hospitals are experiencing more shortages of protective gear in the fight against COVID-19 than the national average, according to a federal report released Friday.

But hospital officials say it’s nowhere near a crisis.

Personal protective equipment, PPE, includes masks, gloves, booties and goggles, and helps keep health care workers safe from COVID-19 infections. According to a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Maine had 10 hospitals, representing 29 percent of its hospitals, reporting PPE supply shortages as of last week. The hospitals were not listed. The national average was 21 percent. In New England, 27 percent of hospitals reported shortages. Across the United States, a total of 1,052 hospitals said they did not have enough PPE.

While Maine’s hospitals had tight supplies of protective gear, only three hospitals, 9 percent, reported staffing shortages, compared to 15 percent in New England and 18 percent nationwide.

John Porter, spokesman for MaineHealth, the parent of Maine Medical Center in Portland, Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick and seven other hospitals in Maine, said the network has had some supply problems with certain sizes of N95 masks, but overall supplies for protective gear are sufficient.

“Supply chains will always cause our numbers to fluctuate, but there is nothing that is causing us any alarm in recent months,” Porter said Friday.


At Northern Light Health, the parent company of Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Mercy Hospital in Portland and eight other hospitals, supplies are tight but workable, spokeswoman Karen Cashman said.

“Supplies of PPE continue to be tight nationally and here in Maine,” she said in a statement. “Thanks to the hard work and creativity of our supply chain team, we’ve been able to procure the PPE needed to keep our staff and patients safe.”

Jeff Austin, vice president of government affairs for the Maine Hospital Association, said he was unaware of any problems with PPE shortages at Maine hospitals.

A spokesperson for Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston did not return a message Friday.

The shortages in Maine are likely tied to a steady increase in the number of COVID-19 related hospitalizations since November. The number of patients hospitalized eclipsed 100 for the first time on Nov. 23 and hasn’t come down since. Over the last month, there have been at least 177 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Maine every day and a high of 207 individuals on Jan. 13. Many patients, especially those in critical care, require treatment from multiple health care professionals.

When the pandemic first reached Maine in March, hospitals had to scramble to build up supplies of masks and other gear at a time when there was a limited national stockpile. For many weeks, facilities were forced to share or reuse equipment and also rely on locally made face masks or shields, often from manufacturers that had stopped normal production because of the pandemic. Many hospitals across the country also faced a shortage of ventilators, which have been used regularly with severe cases, but that never became a major issue in Maine.

Staff Writer Eric Russell contributed to this report.

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