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Maine nurses call for more staff and safer working conditions as COVID hospitalizations hit record high

Nicole Ogrysko
Maine Public
The National Nurses United local at Maine Medical Center in Portland held a press conference on Jan. 13, 2022, saying staffing shortages have created unsafe conditions for both the medical staff and patients.

As the state broke another record for COVID-19 hospitalizations Thursday, the National Nurses United local at Maine Medical Center is calling for more staff and better safety protocols.

At a press conference outside the hospital on Thursday, one nurse said at least 30 of her coworkers have left the operating room since the pandemic began and are taking travel nurse jobs with better pay. Others are leaving the profession altogether as the pandemic drags on and government and hospital safety protocols constantly change.

Janel Crowley is a registered nurse at Maine Medical Center's neonatal intensive care unit.

"Nurses are tired. We're called frontline workers because we are fighting a war, and the toll on our bodies, our minds, is leading to moral distress, moral injury and PTSD," Crowley said.

Annika Moltz, a medical-surgical nurse, said the number of nurses calling out sick with COVID-19 is overwhelming. At least 15 units at the hospital have COVID outbreaks among the staff. Moltz told reporters at press conference that she recently finished a shift confident that the next day would be fully staffed.

"Later that night I got a text message saying that we were down three certified nursing assistants and down two nurses," Moltz said. "And that was over the course one night, five people called out."

National Nurses United held similar events throughout the country on Thursday to call attention to staffing shortages and working conditions during the pandemic.