Hospitalizations have grown across eastern Maine’s largest hospital system in recent weeks, but a growing number of patients are being treated outside the system’s flagship Bangor hospital.
The 50 coronavirus hospitalizations reported by Northern Light Health on Thursday marked an increase of 19 since the system saw 31 on Oct. 8, at the time a nadir since the delta variant surge that began over the summer.
Of the patients hospitalized on Thursday, 26 were at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor — a number that has held relatively steady for most of October. The other 24 were scattered across six other Northern Light hospitals across Maine, with nine at Mercy Hospital in Portland, five at Mayo Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft and four at Inland Hospital in Waterville.
Northern Light officials have not been able to determine a cause for the increase, said Dr. James Jarvis, senior physician executive of Northern Light Health’s COVID-19 response. However, he said the spike likely had several contributing factors.
He noted that there had been an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the southern part of the state in the last few weeks. In addition, some of the system’s smaller hospitals have gained the capability to treat coronavirus patients who may have gone to a larger hospital earlier, Jarvis said.
In addition, limited bed capacity at hospitals across the state has also led to some patients being treated at hospitals farther from their homes, Jarvis said.
“That may play into some of the shifting,” he said.
Though numbers continue to be largely positive for Bangor itself, the increase in hospitalizations in other parts of eastern Maine shows the fluid situation the state faces with the delta variant. After dipping as low as 150 on Oct. 10, hospitalizations again surpassed 200 across the state on Monday. They were at 197 on Thursday, with 71 patients in the ICU and 31 on ventilators.
While the Bangor region was once an epicenter of the state’s delta variant surge, it has seen declines in hospitalizations, deaths and new cases since those numbers peaked in late September. The number of hospitalizations at Eastern Maine Medical Center on Thursday was up from last week and the week before, but not close to its peak of 59 last month.
A total of 103 Mainers had been newly hospitalized with the coronavirus between Oct. 9, the day hospitalizations across the Northern Light system were at their lowest, and Thursday. Somerset County residents had the highest rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations during that period, followed by residents of Franklin and Hancock counties.