Local first responders stand in recognition for healthcare workers on the frontline

Wed, 04/08/2020 - 5:00pm

    ROCKPORT — A show of support by first responders to members of the Pen Bay Medical Center team, Wednesday, April 8, turned into a showing of mutual support for all COVID-19 response efforts. 

    Mimicking a show of appreciation that is spreading across the country by first-response departments, a few local fire chiefs decided to do the same for their Rockport hospital. 

    With only about 24 hours from initial concept to fruition, fire trucks representing Rockport, Rockland, Thomaston, South Thomaston, Thomaston and Camden lined the Pen Bay Physician’s Building parking lot, Wednesday afternoon, alongside law enforcement units from Rockland, Camden/Rockport, and Knox County Sheriff’s Office.

    “We thought we’d come together and show some support for people who are working hard,” said Rockland Fire Chief Chris Whytock. 

    “If you watch the news, everything is centered around this COVID response,” he said. “Hospital workers in general are feeling the grunt of this, as well as first responders. I think it was a good opportunity to pull everybody in together. Be a community, and show support.”

    As of 4 p.m., April 8, Maine CDC reports 97 residents who are healthcare workers have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Maine CDC spokesperson Robert Long. 

    In terms of COVID-19, the Maine CDC defines ‘healthcare worker’ extremely broadly, said State epidemiologist Dr. Nirav Shah, during the April 8 daily news briefing. 

    ‘It really encompasses anyone who could potentially come into contact with the patient,” said Shah. “And the reason for that is partly because we recognize the value that every single environmental service worker at a hospital has –Or every person at a kitchen in a hospital has. Because the work that they are doing is just as vital as the work anyone else is doing. And so we believe they deserve the respect of being included in our definition of healthcare worker.” 

    Whytock summed it up: It’s hospital workers in general, he said. Everybody. It’s keeping the place clean, it’s keeping people fed in there.

    “It’s a stressful time to be in healthcare, and we wanted to show our appreciation to all of them,” he said.

    As Pen Bay workers learned of the organized effort – which was initiated with a goal of avoiding social congregating, according to Whytock – workers immediately decided to turn that recognition around, according to PBMC media spokesperson Jenifer Harris.

    “There’s nobody on the scene – who saw that this was happening – who didn’t think ‘we need to recognize them,’” she said. “Seeing how that came to life was pretty impressive.” 

    “This effort on behalf of healthcare workers is pretty amazing,” said Harris. “These relationships – we can’t be successful without them. This kind of support means so much to the team. We’re just grateful that they’re here, and that we have this type of relationship.” 

    Maine has been promised $10 million in payments to hospitals across Maine, according to Shah.

    “We remain committed to supporting hospitals in Maine, and again, we view this $10 million as a first step,” said Shah. “We’re also open and thinking about other ways we can support healthcare providers more generally, be that EMS workers, physicians, and all others who are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 situation.” 


    Some responses by Dr. Nirav Shah during the April 8, 2020 daily news briefing. (not in continuous, or chronological order)

    The approach that we have taken in Maine, first of all, and most foremost, grounded in a sense of our shared humanity. Our view is that we need to put the health and safety of people in Maine first. 

    We do so, not in an abstract system, but taking into account science, data, and continually revisiting the questions that we’ve asked to see what’s changed. I can’t comment on how other states have gone about their planning, but I know that we’ve been quick, we’ve been concise, and we’ve been aggressive; and that’s because our approach is one that’s motivated by our desire to take care of people, and grounded in data and science. 

    Community transmission has, and is occurring, in at least two counties in Maine: York and Cumberland. And we fully expect community transmission to be detected across other counties as well. We again recognize that first responders are taking a risk, especially in areas with community transmission, in the same way we all do anytime we come into contact with anybody. 

    With respect to healthcare workers. Here in Maine, I’ve talked with quite a few of them. And, I recognize fully the challenge that they are facing. They are truly the ones in the arena. Every single healthcare worker across the state, at every level of the healthcare system, they’re the ones who are in the arena, and I can’t express how much gratitude I have for them. Recognizing the risk that they are taking, showing up at work, taking care of Maine people, in challenging situations. I really do commend them. I know that they are under a tremendous amount of stress. And it warms me to know that they feel that their role is essential, and I do thank them for that. I’ve had the privilege of chatting with quite a few Maine healthcare workers across the healthcare spectrum. We are hoping to do everything we can to continue supporting them as well. Not just from a PPE perspective, but also from a mental health and behavioral health perspective as well. 

    It’s also a matter of public health. Part of the reason we track, and are especially solicitous and concerned about healthcare workers is because they may come into contact with patients, and thus transmit the disease. Or acquire the disease. It’s both. So, for that reason, we cast a very broad net for when we talk about healthcare workers. And we define it to include anyone who may come into contact with the patient and thus be at risk for acquiring COVID-19 or transmitting COVID-19. 


    Reach Sarah Thompson at news@penbaypilot.com