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

Montana Hospitals Have Little Room For Idaho’s Overflowing COVID Cases

A hospital worker walks past an empty bed in a hospital hallway.
A hospital worker walks past an empty bed in a hospital hallway.

As hospitals overflow in Idaho, COVID-positive patients there looking for care in Montana won’t find many empty rooms. Montana is dealing with its own needs for staffing and bed capacity.

Idaho’s health department enacted guidelines Tuesday that allow hospitals to use resources for patients more likely to survive. The announcement of these “Crisis Standards of Care” cited staffing and hospital bed shortages as the reasons for the move.

Montana Hospital Association President Rich Rasmussen says hospitals here are at their limits in terms of being able to take on any additional patients.

“So it may mean that an Idaho patient may not have the ability to be cared [for] here; they may have to go someplace else,” he says.

Rasmussen says hospitals in Montana have gotten requests to take patients from as far as Texas. He says with the pace of new daily case rates, ICU capacity across Montana may fill up quicker than last year’s spike of COVID cases.

A Montana health department spokesman says a workgroup of health department officials and the governor’s office are reviewing the state’s crisis care guidance for hospitals in case it’s needed.

Montana added over 1,000 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, the first time the state has breached that threshold this year. The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services reported a little over 1,200 new cases Tuesday, but those numbers include cases added over the weekend.

The number of active hospitalizations also grew by nearly 30 patients, bringing the current total to 301 COVID-19 hospital patients. The last time there were that many COVID-19 hospital patients statewide was last December.

Freddy Monares was a reporter and Morning Edition host at Montana Public Radio.
Aaron graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2015 after interning at Minnesota Public Radio. He landed his first reporting gig in Wrangell, Alaska where he enjoyed the remote Alaskan lifestyle and eventually moved back to the road system as the KBBI News Director in Homer, Alaska. He joined the MTPR team in 2019. Aaron now reports on all things in northwest Montana and statewide health care.
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