By Shelley Farrington Lincoln News • February 11, 2021
KATAHDIN REGION – While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused great pain and suffering it’s also created the opportunity for new partnerships and cooperation among groups and organizations with the same mission – to help the communities they serve.
The healthcare industry is a great example of that cooperation and in the Katahdin region Millinocket Regional Hospital (MRH), Health Access Network (HAN), and Penobscot Valley Hospital (PVH) are leading by example.
In addition, organizations that have direct contact with citizens who are in a high risk groups have also been contacted by MRH to work together.
“PVH, HAN, and MRH are collaborating to care for our entire region with the goal of assuring that all members of our family are protected with the vaccine,” said Todd Phillips, RN, BSN, MPH MRH Infection Preventionist. “We’re working with our community partners (Sweet Seniors, KFI, Living Innovations, In-Home Care, etc.) to identify patient facing healthcare workers who qualify for the current round of vaccines.
“We’re excited to extend the vaccination process beyond hospital employees and look forward to working with our local partners to get them the protection they need as they care for members of our community. We are all fighting the same demon,” Phillips continued.
Phillips’ sentiment is echoed by other regional healthcare leaders including KFI CEO Barbara Beaulieu, HAN CEO Nicole Morrison, RN, BSN, MBA and Sweet Seniors Owner and COO Gabrielle Rioux Herbig. All say that during this extraordinary difficult time knowing that there is help and support with local healthcare providers has made navigating the maze of COVID-19 guidelines, recommendations and restrictions a little bit easier.
“Todd (Phillips) and MRH have been a resource and a wealth of factual details guiding our direction through the pandemic,” said Beaulieu. “We have reached out to Todd with specific questions regarding COVID 19, testing, quarantining, and the vaccine and have been able to share that information with KFI staff.”
Rioux Herbig agreed and said the genuine feeling of “teamwork” with other agencies has created a unique sense of community that has been incredibly helpful.
“COVID-19 has presented Sweet Seniors with many new challenges and at times the learning curve has been steep,” Rioux Herbig said. “As a small business in a rural area we are used to limited resources. The demands placed on the health care system within the state of Maine were reflected early on in 2020. Despite the limitations surrounding us MRH is a strong community partner.
“Their commitment to the region is empowering. The hospital was there for us in the beginning when everything was new and unknown and remain a strong resource now as we work towards vaccination,” she continued.
“Community” was also a word used by Morrison who said there is a great deal of pride in HAN’s partnership with MRH and their ability to rise up and meet the needs of their communities especially during times like these. The job of vaccinating citizens in the region is a tall one but one that can be done with coordination.
“We are pleased to do our part in building on the foundation that MRH has established with its pre-registration and scheduling processes, and are focusing our efforts on contacting patients as quickly as possible to share this important information,” Morrison said. “As we all work through the Maine CDC’s outlined vaccination stages, we will continue to reach out to patients to ensure they have the details needed to receive vaccine as it becomes available. We recognize vaccine supply remains one of our greatest hurdles and that this same concern is shared in communities across the state and around the country. We applaud MRH’s staff for their coordination of distribution as vaccine arrives and for their communication with patients who meet the current CDC criteria for incoming shipment.”
Working with the CDC vaccine stages is another support that Rioux Herbig values and has translated to her being able to offer vaccinations to her most vulnerable.
“Because of Millinocket Regional Hospital we were able to complete our first round of vaccination of all residents and employees before the end of January,” Rioux Herbig said. “This was a huge success. Their outreach and organization made it possible for our facility to gain access to the vaccine weeks if not months sooner than our other federal options. Being in partnership with MRH provides our facility valuable support, reassurance and confidence. It is clear we have a partner in the healthcare community within the Katahdin region. At Sweet Seniors we serve the most vulnerable community members and value MRH as a resource.”
Phillips said the work to educate and vaccinate the community remains ongoing and the support of his colleagues at MRH and partnering organizations will ensure that community safety and care remains the highest priority.
To register for the MRH vaccine clinic go to www.mrhme.org/getvax