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The latest news about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 in Montana.

State Secures 200 Medical Workers To Assist Hospitals Hit Hardest By Pandemic

Health care worker holding a clipboard.

Two-hundred traveling medical workers deploying to Montana hospitals hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic will arrive before Thanksgiving. Governor Steve Bullock announced the boost in medical staffing Monday.

Billings Clinic Chief Nursing Officer Laurie Smith says the reinforcement in health care workers comes as many of the hospital's staff are sidelined by COVID-19.

“We have at Billings Clinic 184 personnel that are quarantined and 35 who are COVID positive as a system,” Smith explained.

The state is bringing the temporary medical workers to Montana through a Washington-based staffing firm and they’ll work in hospitals around the state until the end of the year. 

Smith says 63 of those workers are heading to Billings Clinic. They include nurses and respiratory therapists. She says they’ll help the hospital open more beds. The hospital is currently hoping to set up an additional 20 beds in order to keep up.

“This will provide some much-needed assistance with regards to the volume and acuities we’re seeing with patients,” Smith added.

Gov. Steve Bullock’s office said there isn’t a predetermined cost for the workers, and the state anticipates it will be reimbursed for 75 percent of the costs by the federal government.

This comes as the state saw active hospitalizations drop slightly over the weekend. According to state health department data, half of Montana’s 10 largest hospitals reported that between 70 to 90 percent of their in-patient beds were full Sunday. Two of the state’s 49 small critical access hospitals reported being at or above 90 percent of bed capacity.

Aaron Bolton is Montana Public Radio's Flathead Valley reporter.