Montana Public Radio

Scott Ellner

Health care worker holding a clipboard.

As COVID-19 cases across the state surge, the number of available hospital beds for COVID and other patients is quickly becoming a concern. But a shortage of health care workers to staff and watch over patients in those beds is already a problem in some areas of the state.

At least half of all hospital beds in 27 Montana counties are full, according to new state data released Thursday.

The state is reporting inpatient hospital beds are completely full in Lincoln County and at least 90 percent full in Yellowstone, Musselshell and Custer counties.

Hospital administrators in Montana say the recent rise in COVID-19 infections statewide could strain the health care system in coming weeks as patients become more ill and cold and flu season picks up. Health experts are making a plea for Montanans to “do their part” after more than 700 people have been hospitalized with the virus since it arrived in the state.

Dr. Scott Ellner, CEO of Billings Clinic, says the coronavirus pandemic is one of the more challenging situations his team has seen, but he says they’ve got this.