The deadline for Maine to begin enforcing a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for healthcare workers arrived on Friday.
Northern Light Health announced that unvaccinated workers would no longer be working at its 10 hospitals as of Saturday. In Lewiston, Central Maine Medical Center is already in compliance, meaning unvaccinated staff members aren't allowed to work.
MaineHealth, the state's largest healthcare provider, said Friday was the last day for workers to submit paperwork showing compliance with the requirement. Those who do not comply will be terminated.
Andy Mueller, CEO of MaineHealth, has said he expects to lose 1.5% to 2% of staff systemwide but that those losses would be offset by fewer COVID-19-related absences.
"We actually think we're going to have more capability and less shortages in a real way by ensuring our workforce is vaccinated," he said this week.
The vaccine mandate imposed by the administration of Democratic Gov. Janet Mills requires hospital and nursing home workers to get vaccinated or risk losing their jobs. The state announced it would begin enforcing the mandate Friday.
A lawsuit attacking the requirement was still pending with the U.S. Supreme Court. The Liberty Counsel, which filed the lawsuit, claimed to represent more than 2,000 healthcare workers who don't want to be forced to be vaccinated.
State agencies vowed to work with hospitals and nursing homes individually to address staffing issues that might arise from workers who lose their jobs rather than get vaccinated.