The emergency room and campus of Central Maine Medical Center. Credit: Courtesy of Central Maine Healthcare

Staffing shortages at a Lewiston hospital are causing serious delays for area ambulances.

The concern is that it could affect patients who need immediate help if there are other emergencies.

It usually takes about 10 minutes from the time an ambulance arrives to the hospital until they can go to the next call, but Turner Rescue Chief Lisa Bennett said it is now taking 20 or 30 minutes, sometimes even longer.

In fact, it has taken Bennett nearly an hour for her to get in and out of Central Maine Medical Center.

“Which is significant when we’re covering these three communities [Tuner, Leeds and part of Hartford], trying to get an ambulance back in service when we’re standing at the hospital waiting for turn around,” Bennett said.

She said that means ambulance crews are sitting there and waiting to transfer patients to a nurse, all while hoping another call isn’t coming in because the department only has two ambulances.

“Our closest mutual aid is about eight miles from here, and that’s if they’re not out on a call, and then we’ll call to Auburn and hopefully they’re not out on a call,” Bennett said.

“We’re in the same boat as Turner,” Lisbon Emergency Chief of Service Jim MacDonnell said.

He said they haven’t had any issues with other hospitals that they transport to, like Mid Coast Hospital and St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center. It’s just Central Maine Medical Center.

“That’s what they’re telling us is due to staffing, they don’t have staff to man a bed, to care for a patient in the bed,” MacDonnell said.

MacDonnell said he noticed the change at the end of August.

“It got real bad in September. And now it’s critical. It’s not every day. Depends on the day,” MacDonnell said.

Central Maine Healthcare CMO Dr. John Alexander said, “We have a shortage of team members throughout many of our critical patient care areas, including ED, critical care, surgical services and inpatient staffing, at all of our hospitals. Several times each day, we are reviewing patients who need a procedure or need to be admitted to our hospital and reassigning staff to those areas with the greatest need.”