LEWISTON – The majority of health care workers at area hospitals are fully vaccinated in compliance with the state’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement, which went into full effect Oct. 29, but not without a few hiccups.

Nearly 97% of Central Maine Healthcare’s 2,831 employees systemwide were fully vaccinated as of Thursday, according to spokesperson Ann Kim. Central Maine Healthcare is the parent company of Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, Rumford Hospital, Bridgton Hospital and other providers in the area.

A breakdown of vaccination rates by facility was not available.

Of the remaining 93 workers who were unvaccinated as of this week:

• 26 were granted medical exemptions.

• 15 had received their first doses prior to the Oct. 29 deadline but are on leave until they come into full compliance.

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• 52 are fully remote and not patient-facing, so they are not required to be vaccinated under the Maine Department of Health and Human Services rule.

A total of 152 people left Central Maine Healthcare entirely due to the vaccine requirement.

“We continue to encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated,” Kim said in a statement. “It is what is needed to end the pandemic and the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from becoming seriously ill, hospitalized or dying from COVID.”

“Getting vaccinated is also key to helping our hardworking front-line workers who have been heroically serving the community throughout the 20 months of the pandemic.”

Those numbers are different than what DHHS reported on its health care worker vaccination dashboard. The dashboard, which was updated earlier this week, said that as of Oct. 31, 91% of staff at CMMC, 91% of staff at Rumford Hospital and 96% of staff at Bridgton Hospital were fully vaccinated.

According to DHHS, there were 232 staff members at CMMC who were unvaccinated at the end of last month. Most hospitals in the state had less than 25 staff members unvaccinated, presumably those who had either a medical exemption or were fully remote.

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Only MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta had close to that number with 202 unvaccinated workers, though nearly 95% of all staff there were fully vaccinated.

It was not immediately clear why there is such a discrepancy between numbers provided by Central Maine Healthcare and DHHS.

Since June, DHHS mandated that by the seventh of each month all designated health care facilities in Maine provide the department with their staff vaccination rates as of the last day of the previous month.

Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said earlier this week that with the vaccine requirement in full effect the department will go to an annual compliance report in place of the monthly surveys.

Staff members at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston were 98% vaccinated as of the end of last month. Out of 1,734 total staff members there, 32 individuals received medical exemptions, spokesperson Steve Costello said Friday.

The DHHS rule says that staff members who are unvaccinated due to a medical exemption must undergo weekly testing. Fully vaccinated staff members are not subject to the same testing requirements.

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Workers at Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway and Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington are more than 99% vaccinated, with only a handful who are unvaccinated.

Statewide, 98.1% of all health care workers at hospitals were fully vaccinated as of Oct. 31, according to DHHS.

This rule goes into effect as hospitalizations statewide break records that were set in September. As of Friday, 248 individuals were hospitalized due to COVID-19, including 72 in critical care and 31 on ventilators. Friday’s inpatient count exceeded the previous high of 235 set on Sept. 25.

Providers at CMMC this week also saw a high number of COVID patients not seen since early May. On Thursday, there were 24 COVID patients total at CMMC, including eight in the intensive care unit and three on ventilators.

Providers there had been caring for an average of 22 patients per day over the seven-day period ending Thursday, the highest seven-day average ever for the Lewiston hospital.

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