Dr. Ryan Knapp Brewster Burns

The healthcare system in our State, including here at Stephens Memorial Hospital, is struggling right now. Across the State we are experiencing an unprecedented strain on our health care resources. Nearly every hospital in our health system is at or near capacity on a daily basis.

Our Emergency Departments are consistently busy and overflowing at times. Many non-urgent procedures are being rescheduled. There are often delays in transferring patients requiring care at our larger referral hospitals.

This strain on our health care system has many causes. Among them are an increased demand for services due to delayed care from earlier on the pandemic, an exacerbation of the long-standing problem with shortages of health care workers, the disproportionate impact of this labor shortage in our nursing homes making it challenging to discharge patients, and a combination of decreasing availability of mental health resources combined with an increasing need for those services.

Against this backdrop of a really challenging environment in health care, we are now experiencing the worst COVID surge that we have seen throughout this pandemic. Across the State and within the MaineHealth system, we have hit a record number of hospitalizations for COVID.

Stephens is caring for multiple patients infected with the virus every day, either in our inpatient units or within our Emergency Department. Oxford County currently has the second-highest test positivity rate of any county in the State at 13.9%, and the positivity rate through our local testing center is even higher at 21%. While we may be done with the virus, it is not done with us.

Those of us that work in health care are being stretched every day. Despite the fatigue and stress we continue to come to work every day and do our best to care for our patients and community. The health care workers are not the only group feeling the strain of this surge  – other professions in our community have similar challenges, including law enforcement, Fire/EMS, educators, and daycare providers among others.

We are all doing everything we can to continue to serve our community, and we need everyone in our community to help us. Be patient and kind with our care team – they are working hard under difficult circumstances. When you are out in the community, practice social distancing and wear a mask when indoors.

If you are sick and could possibly have COVID, don’t dismiss your symptoms – isolate and get tested. If you have already been vaccinated and qualify for a booster, get it. If you haven’t been vaccinated please reconsider your choice and get vaccinated. By doing these things, you will not only be helping preserve the ability of our health care system to meet everyone’s needs, but also will be supporting your community.

Ryan Knapp, MD is the Chief Medical Officer of Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway.


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