As COVID rises, a Montana hospital joins facilities in Alaska and Idaho in rationing health care.


As COVID rises, a Montana hospital joins facilities in Alaska and Idaho in rationing health care.

With critical care resources near capacity at St. Peter’s Health hospital in Helena, Montana’s capital, health care personnel are overburdened with a surge in COVID-19 patients, requiring the facility to implement crisis standards of care.

Officials indicated Thursday that the situation with the lethal Delta strain is so bad that it has surpassed previous pandemic crisis points.

Dr. Shelly Harkins, chief medical officer of St. Peter’s Health, said, “For the first time in my career, we are at a stage where not every patient in need will get the care that we might wish we could give.” “By practically every metric, we are in a considerably worse situation than we were during our first surge in the winter of 2020.”

St. Peter’s Health has been contacted by hospitals in Idaho, Washington, and Texas for their own crisis needs, such as finding beds for patients who are unable to obtain beds in their home states. Facilities in Bozeman and Billings said last week that they are now applying crisis standards, something that neighboring Idaho and Washington have previously been obliged to do as a result of their own surges.

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When hospital resources are insufficient to give comprehensive care to all patients, crisis standards of care are enforced.

The intensive care unit, advanced medical unit, and morgue of the hospital are all filled. Because the morgue is still full, a freezer truck will be deployed in the hospital’s parking lot.

Crisis care standards can affect everyone, not only COVID-19 patients, according to Harkins.

As hospitals across Montana and surrounding states face similar hardship, Harkins issued a call on Thursday for more people in the community to be vaccinated and take precautions to minimize the transmission of the illness, such as wearing a mask in closed settings.

Because they are unable to transfer sicker patients to larger hospitals as they would normally, the Helena hospital is forced to give a greater quality of care than before.

St. Peter’s also has a staffing problem, with 200 of the hospital’s 1,700 posts in the 99-bed facility unfilled.

“For us, full capacity is determined by staffing, not by bed space,” Harkins explained.

The. This is a condensed version of the information.


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