As more encouraging news about vaccines and booster shots continues to grow, it’s important to remember that in many parts of the country the resurgence of COVID-19 is a critical problem.
In Montana, a state that bars private companies from requiring workers to get the COVID vaccine, hospitals are so overwhelmed by patients that some have asked for the National Guard to help the overworked staff. The largest hospital in the state, Billings Clinic in Yellowstone County, has seen 14 deaths from COVID in the past week. From The Missoulian:
Dr. Sara Nyquist, an emergency medicine physician, said she has been asked by a patient if she is a Republican or a Democrat.
“I said, ‘I am your doctor,’” she recalled. “You do wonder how we got here.”
Dr. Scott Ellner, the clinic’s CEO, said he doesn’t understand what happened to civility. “There is a part of the society that wants to pretend that the covid surge isn’t really happening,” he said. “But this is our reality every single day.”
Montana has become the epicenter for COVID infections in the U.S., recording the highest percentage increase in new cases over the past seven days. The state recorded 1,209 new cases last Friday. According to The Missoulian, Billings Clinic has space for 28 ICU patients but the hospital is operating far above capacity. Patients are being shuffled to other parts of the hospital, being cared for in some cases by nurses not trained to deal with critically ill people.
The hospital’s Emergency Room manager sums up the tragedy unfolding daily at Billings Clinic.
“We are running out of hallways.”
At a time when all energy should be expended to help the sick and comfort the dying, care-givers are dealing with antagonism rather than support.
The Missoulian had a reporter inside the Billings Clinic ICU,
What’s different from the early scenes of the pandemic is the public’s response. Not so long ago, the cheers of community support could be heard from the hospital parking lot. Now, tensions are so strained that Billings Clinic is printing signs for its hallways, asking that the staff members not be mistreated.
Like other hospitals in Montana, Billings Clinic announced it may be forced to initiate “crisis standards of care” protocols. That means it will ration its equipment, staff and medicine, with priority given to those patients who doctors believe can be saved, regardless of vaccination status.
NBC News recently aired a story (watch above) on the situation at Billings Clinic. The reporter, Gabe Gutierrez, shared a update on Twitter about one of the patients he profiled.
I spoke with Patrick Burshia earlier this month inside an ICU @BillingsClinic in Montana.
He told me he regretted not getting the Covid vaccine. But he was grateful that his condition was improving.
Sadly, he passed away this weekend.
He was just 24 years old. pic.twitter.com/C1LfPL1zCZ
— Gabe Gutierrez (@gabegutierrez) September 21, 2021
Overcrowded hospitals do not just mean patients with COVID may not get the care they need; it also means that emergency patients may be turned away.
“We are at the point where we are not confident going forward that we can continue to meet all patients’ needs,” said Dr. Nathan Allen, the medical ethicist for Billings Clinic and its department chair for emergency medicine. “And that’s heartbreaking.”