September 21, 2021
Governor Janet Mills
1 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333
Dear Governor Mills:
We write to ask that you immediately consider altering your vaccine mandate for health care workers to conform to those of nearly all other states and the federal government.
We cannot solve all of our health care problems today, but you can take one very big step to remove uncertainty and keep Maine health care workers on the job. By altering your vaccine mandate for these workers to include regular testing rather than termination of employment, you can join 17 other states and the federal government in removing the threat of job loss from the mandate.
Over the weekend, we learned of the closing of a fourth nursing home, disrupting the lives of residents, employees, and their families and eliminating 120 beds from Maine’s already struggling system of long term care. More beds have been taken offline as nursing homes that have remained open downsize due to staffing shortages.
As a result, Maine’s hospitals are now in crisis. Unable to send recovering patients to rehab beds in these facilities, some are actually turning away ambulances with patients inside due to lack of Emergency Room space. At the same time, ambulance services from Auburn to Washington County are worried that they may lose as much as half of their staff due to the vaccine mandate.
Soon, someone who is seriously sick or injured may have to wait for long periods of time for an ambulance to arrive, only to find the nearest hospital will not allow it to bring them there.
According to the U.S. CDC, in the three weeks following your mandate announcement, another 15 nursing home residents in Maine died with the virus, compared with just two during the two months prior. Over the last three weeks, the death rate among Maine’s nursing home residents is third highest in the nation, behind only Florida and West Virginia. With vaccination rates as low as 24% at some facilities, your mandate will no doubt force many more nursing homes to close.
At a time when Maine has reached a record number of hospitalized COVID cases, that problem has collided with the already dire nursing home staffing crisis, creating a perfect storm affecting our entire health care system.
This is compounded by the vaccine mandate which is now the most extreme in the U.S. along with New York. Currently, seventeen states, including fifteen led by Democratic governors, have vaccine mandates in place for health care workers that require regular testing, not termination of employment, as a consequence of not becoming vaccinated.
President Biden’s new mandate for federal workers and organizations with more than one hundred employees also allows testing as an alternative. This means that, while the employees of Maine’s state government will now be subject to a mandate that merely requires testing, that same government will be holding health care workers to a much stronger and life-altering consequence at a time when the system is already in great need of adding and not losing staff.
Clearly, the medical opinion of scores of health care experts who are advising seventeen other governors and the federal government should be given great weight. They have advised that, when considering all of the relevant factors, testing is a sufficient alternative to termination.
It is essential, and quite urgent, that something be done to immediately impact this crisis in a positive way. By altering your mandate to eliminate loss of employment, you will have an immediate effect on all aspects of our health care system and prevent a rapidly worsening crisis from escalating further.
|Jeffrey Timberlake |
Senate Republican Leader
|Matthew Pouliot |
Assistant Senate Republican Leader
|Bradlee Farrin State Senator|
|Richard Bennett State Senator||Paul Davis, Sr. State Senator||Marianne Moore State Senator|
|Scott Cyrway State Senator||Stacey Guerin State Senator||Kimberley Rosen State Senator|
|Russell Black State Senator||Lisa Keim State Senator||Harold Stewart, III State Senator|
|David Woodsome State Senator|