‘we continue to prepare for the worst and hope for the best’

Update from Pen Bay Medical Center, Waldo County General Hospital CEO Mark Fourre

Wed, 04/08/2020 - 3:30pm

    Pen Bay Medical Center, Waldo County General Hospital CEO Mark Fourre sent the following April 8: : At Coastal Healthcare Alliance, we continue to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

    As of Wednesday, April 8, our COVID+ inpatient census at Pen Bay Medical Center and Waldo County General Hospital is zero and inpatient numbers across the state were stable.

    The number of documented cases in our region remains small, 25 across Waldo, Knox and Lincoln counties as of this writing.  The state total is 537.  

    I draw two conclusions from this.

    First, our community is actively practicing social distancing and it appears to be making a difference. We should be proud of our commitment to confront this pandemic with the seriousness it demands.

    Second, if we continue to practice social distancing, we may be able avoid the spikes in COVID-19 cases that we are seeing in other parts of the country.

    There is some evidence to support this. California and Washington state adopted stay-at-home policies early during the pandemic and data suggests that by doing so they may have avoided the spike in COVID-19 cases that threaten other areas of the country. For example, the San Francisco Bay area has only about one third of the COVID-19 cases as similarly sized Boston.

    Last week, Gov. Janet Mills ordered a stay-at-home policy in Maine.

    In broad terms, it requires people to stay 6 feet apart, regulates the number of people who can be in a retail store based on square footage and establishes fines for those who defy the order.

    The timing of this order is critical. In Maine and especially in Knox and Waldo counties, we are still early enough in the cycle where such an order can have a significant impact on how COVID-19 plays out. But while important, an executive order and fines will not be enough.

    It will require that we all embrace and adhere to not just the specifics of the order but the spirit of it.

    We have seen an amazing outpouring of community support for the health care workers and support staff on the front lines of COVID-19. 

    Wood shops and boatyards from Belfast to Thomaston have donated masks and nitrile gloves.

    A local energy company donated the propane necessary to fuel our COVID-19 testing facility at PBMC.

    A member of Belfast City Council set up a Go Fund Me to feed WCGH team members that met its $1,000 goal in an hour.

    And, numerous business and individuals have reached out with offers of other aid, from coffee shop gift cards to a delivery of pizzas for our nurses at PBMC & WCGH.

    We will be acknowledging them all publicly in time. For now let me simply and humbly say thank you.

    And then there was the outpouring of support on social media and from friends and neighbors. This is no small matter. The poet William Meredith wrote, “Words addressing evil won’t turn evil back, but they can give heart.”

    Your words give us heart. They strengthen our resolve. And they remind us that we are one community coming together to face this challenge head on.

    And not just words. Camden-Rockport Elementary School kindergarten students, who are remote learning from home, placed a large red heart at the entrance on Route 1. Now, every member of the PBMC team drives past this heart on their way into work.

    How can we not be reminded why we in health care do what we do? How can we not be in awe of how even the youngest members of our community are playing such an important role. 

    All of these messages of gratitude and encouragement give meaning to the work of those who show up every day understanding that this may put them at some risk. Please keep them coming.  

    But remember this, too. While encouraging words and signs are vital, they are not enough. The best way to respect your local health care workers – as well as your family, friends and neighbors – is to take the actions necessary to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 so you don’t have to go to the hospital at all. 

    Stay informed by regularly visiting the website of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov, the Maine Center for Disease Control at www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc, as well as the hospitals’ websites at www.pbmc.org and www.wcgh.org.

    Most importantly, diligently practice social distancing at home, at work, everywhere, all the time. Your local health care workers thank you.