LEWISTON – Central Maine Healthcare began screening employees and patients Tuesday to determine if they posed a risk of spreading COVID-19.

“The screening consists of a couple questions and a temperature check,” said Kate Carlisle, spokeswoman for the 3,000-employee health care institution. “We are doing this in the interest of the safety of our staff, patients and the community.”

These are the screening criteria laid out by Central Maine Healthcare to check all of its staff and visitors starting on Tuesday. Central Maine Healthcare

It is not clear if any other hospitals or medical facilities in the region are taking the same step. All of them have, however, imposed strict limits on visitors.

At St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, there has been a strict no-visitors policy since March 21.

Jason Gould, spokesman for St. Mary’s Health System, said that limited exceptions to the policy “may be made only by the attending physician for pediatrics, obstetrics, surgeries, end-of-life care, or other extraordinary circumstances,” with any approved visitors “subject to screening.”

At Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway and Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington, there are similar policies on visitation.

“We are not taking the temperatures of visitors as part of our screening,” said Caroline Cornish, spokeswoman for Maine Medical Center in Portland, which is part of the MaineHealth nonprofit network that includes the Norway and Farmington hospitals.

MaineHealth, she said, has “issued guidelines to staff for regular self-screening and set up an employee-only hotline for those with health and work-related questions. We also have mandated that our workforce not come to work when sick.”

The new CMHC policy requires everyone entering any of the company’s health care facilities to have their temperature taken and to answer questions about current symptoms and possible exposure to the deadly new virus.

Those with a temperature above 100.4 degrees — or 38 degrees Celsius — will be sent home. That’s the body temperature the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers an indication of a fever.

Anybody with symptoms or recent exposure to someone with the disease or a person who has been tested will be required to wear masks on duty to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

If someone falls under two or more criteria, they will be tested for COVID-19, the CMHC policy says.

“The health and safety of our patients, community and you is not something we take lightly, and those who are knowingly putting others at risk will face consequences for their actions,” CMHC said in a memo to its employees.

“We must band together and do what is best for everyone around us while we weather this storm,” it said.

The universal symptom screening will take place at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, hospitals in Rumford and Bridgton, and each of the medical facilities operated by CMHC.

In the memo laying out the new system, CMHC told employees that “we understand that there is a lot of uncertainty and our normal lives have been thrown off track, but we must remember why we all became health care team members — we are compassionate and care for those in need.”

A sign at the entrance of Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston in January warned about the dangers of the influenza virus. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“We must keep those principles in mind when making decisions in the coming days,” it said, a clear reference to an expected increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.

“As schedules shift, duties temporarily change and life outside of CMH enters an unprecedented time, we understand you may be concerned about family, choice time and pay,” the memo said. “However, we must be vigilant in monitoring our own health for the safety of our patients and our team members.”

“It has become apparent to us that in this time of stress, we have sometimes forgotten how our health can impact those around us,” the memo said.

 

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