Following Governor Janet Mills’ recent statement denying requests from a bipartisan coalition of local lawmakers, Central Maine Medical Center and Republican Legislative Leadership, House Republican Leader Kathleen Dillingham responded with a letter to Governor Mills.
Central to the issue at hand is the announcement that Central Maine Medical Center, one of Maine’s largest hospitals, was beginning to curtail some care and divert patients as they face the loss of key staff due to Gov. Mills’ vaccine mandate.
Below is the full text of the letter Rep. Dillingham released.
October 14, 2021
Janet T. Mills Governor State of Maine 1 State House Station Augusta, ME 04330
I am writing with disappointment in response to your statement referencing the letter that Senator Timberlake and I sent to our presiding officers, on which you were copied out of courtesy.
Your assertion that Republicans have done little to advance a response around COVID-19 does little to encourage any collaboration and, unfortunately, it holds true to what many, political parties aside, have experienced in trying to work with or obtain information from your administration.
We have certainly questioned many decisions made by you, and members of your administration, and often never receive responses. As I previously wrote, I am still waiting for a written response regarding your implementation of the vaccine mandate where it pertains to first responders. Specifically, surrounding volunteers and those that share the same work building with those who are licensed paramedics. Perhaps, before implementing this mandate, the administration should have waited for clear guidance from the federal government once they were done formulating the rules around this requirement.
Our office has asked numerous times to be included in discussions around the administration’s decision-making process, to have the metrics shared that are being used to determine our state’s response to the pandemic, and now the ongoing response to address the virus. Our office has been denied every single time. You even went so far to deny providing information around what groups are part of these discussions because you stated that we, the people elected to represent citizens of Maine in our government, would make it too political.
To imply that Republicans are trying to weaken the state’s COVID-19 response by bringing forth a concern from one of our healthcare providers is what I deem to be repugnant. It is a classic example of the government knowing best. This mentality continues to add to distrust of government and feeds division.
“To imply that Republicans are trying to weaken the state’s COVID-19 response by bringing forth a concern from one of our healthcare providers is what I deem to be repugnant.”
Maine Republican House Leader Kathleen Dillingham, October 14, 2021
You state if we, as Republicans, don’t want to listen to you, then we should listen to the other healthcare facilities that align with your beliefs. Perhaps you have checked the voter registration records of the officials and employees that work for Central Maine Health, but I have not. This is not a Republican vs. Democrat issue. You and un-elected officials within your administration, through your dismissive response and demeanor, continue to try to make this trying time about political parties rather than listen to any opinion outside your own echo chamber.
Governor, have you taken the time to listen to the officials of this healthcare system? Have you personally met with them to hear their concerns as I and a bipartisan group of Legislators did? Rather than you, the CDC director, and members of your administration, continually vilifying these essential workers and members of our society, perhaps you should take the time to meet with these healthcare professionals. If you are concerned about their vaccination status, you could participate remotely. Listen to them; hear their concerns and or their fears.
These very same people who you characterized as not caring about the health and welfare of their patients and coworkers are the very same people who showed up to work every single day at the height of the pandemic and continue to do so.
They routinely worked long hours, sometimes without proper PPE. They spent time away from their families to try and prevent transmission. We called them heroes. Now you treat them with derision and as some have personally told me, they now feel like they are treated as lesser citizens. These are citizens that you serve, Governor. You serve those who have chosen to get this vaccination as well as those who have not. It is important to listen to the opinions and voices of all those who you serve, not only those who agree with you. Anything less is an abdication of your leadership.
Although your statement tries mightily to divert attention from the real issue here, I will reiterate it once again—we have a healthcare organization that is already facing a staffing shortage and is concerned that the impending mandate will only exacerbate this problem. It has led them to make tough decisions about the services they can provide to ensure the safety of their employees as well as those they provide services to. They have asked that the mandate be amended to allow for testing options as well as funds to help them seek alternatives to address the shortage.
“Although your statement tries mightily to divert attention from the real issue here, I will reiterate it once again- We have a healthcare organization that is already facing a staffing shortage and is concerned that the impending mandate will only exacerbate this problem.”
Maine Republican House Leader Kathleen Dillingham, October 14, 2021
As another diversionary tactic, you claim that Republicans have failed to address the workforce shortage that Maine is currently facing. I am unsure if you are speaking directly of the healthcare shortage or overall, but in either case, your sound bite statement is lacking in factual evidence. Under the previous administration, the hospitals were finally paid the monies owed to them from previous administrations. Republicans in the legislature have continually sponsored and supported STEM education, the trades, and programs to encourage students who graduate in Maine, to stay and work in Maine. This is only a small example among many pieces of legislation intended to support our businesses and to attract workers to our state. Also, under your administration, I believe the data shows unemployment has grown even though our employers, from big to small, are facing staffing shortages, and there are help wanted signs posted from north to south and east to west in our state.
Again, rather than continually trying to make this political, let us focus on policy and communication. Let us have an open exchange of ideas, no matter where they come from. Let us hear from individuals who are directly impacted by the decisions we make in Augusta without assigning blame to them and personally attacking their beliefs. After all, these are the people we represent and serve. Neither you nor I would hold office in Augusta without them.
I am available to meet personally if you would like to discuss this crisis further.
Representative Kathleen R. J. Dillingham House Republican Leader