AUGUSTA — With Gov. Janet Mills having set a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for health care workers, MaineGeneral Health in Augusta is working on a contingency plan for staffing as the Oct. 29 deadline grows nearer.

Spokesperson Joy McKenna said as of Tuesday, about 81% of MaineGeneral’s employees met the mandate’s requirements.

On July 31, the Maine Healthcare Worker COVID-19 dashboard data showed 1,121 employees at MaineGeneral were not vaccinated, while 2,830 had received the vaccine. The numbers included all employees, temporary or contract personnel and volunteers or students.

Since the mandate was announced, McKenna said 16 members of the staff had resigned and another 4% had received at least one dose of the COVID-10 vaccine.

As of Tuesday, she said, MaineGeneral had about 520 job openings. That has proved challenging for some parts of MaineGeneral Health, according to McKenna, but the company has not had to close departments due to staffing shortages.

She said the challenges are more a factor of staff members being out because of COVID-19 exposure than employees leaving because of the mandate.

On Aug. 26, five radiation therapists called out of work at MaineGeneral’s Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care in Augusta, leading to the cancellation of all appointments for the day.

At that time, McKenna said none of the employees mentioned the mandate as a reason for having called out. She added it would be “very disappointing if any staff members chose to call out and deny patients the care they deserve.”

McKenna said MaineGeneral is doing everything it can to make it easy for employees who need COVID-19 vaccinations to receive them, while also providing information about the coronavirus and vaccination to employees.

“Managers have been informed about their employees who are not on record as having received the COVID-19 vaccination so they can talk with them, answer any questions they have and refer them to their PCPs (primary care physicians) for health-related questions about the vaccines,” she said.

While MaineGeneral had offered a mass vaccination clinic at the Augusta Civic Center and numerous pop-up clinics in communities with lower-than-average vaccination rates, McKenna said there are no plans to reopen mass vaccination clinics once booster shots are rolled out.

“At this time, we are waiting on final guidance from state and federal CDC about potential booster shots,” she said. “If boosters are recommended, we will continue using our primary care practices for vaccinations.”

No additional pop-up clinics are now planned, McKenna said.

As of Tuesday, Kennebec County has had 4,682 confirmed cases, 3,025 probable cases, 87 deaths, 194 hospitalizations and a case rate of 631.3 per 10,000 people since the COVID-19 pandemic begun in March 2020, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention.

Also in Kennebec County, 71,416 of the 122,302 residents, or about 58.4%, have received the final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to state CDC data.

“The uptick of COVID-19 incidents in Kennebec County have an impact not only on health care but on area businesses and schools,” McKenna said. “It is so important that each of us do all that we can to keep ourselves and each other safe.

“That includes getting vaccinated, wearing masks at public indoor locations, socially distancing, washing hands and staying home when you are sick. We all need to work together to decrease the spread of COVID-19.”

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