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Coronavirus

Helena Hospital Critical Care at Capacity Amid Virus Surge

September 17, 2021

HELENA, Mont. — A hospital in Helena was forced to implement crisis standards of care amid a surge in COVID-19 patients, hospital officials said Thursday.

Critical care resources are at maximum capacity at St. Peter’s Health hospital. Crisis standards of care are implemented when hospital resources are not sufficient to provide full care to all patients in the facility. Under such conditions, care providers must sometimes choose how to allocate scare resources including medications and beds.

St. Peter’s Health chief medical officer Dr. Shelly Harkins said the constraints in the hospital are worse than what was seen earlier in the pandemic.

“For the first time in my career, we are at the point where not every patient in need will get the care that we might wish we could give,” Harkins said. “By almost every single measure we are in a far worse position than we ever were in the winter of 2020, during our first surge.”

The hospital’s intensive care unit, advanced medical unit and morgue are full. A freezer truck in the parking lot of the hospital will be used because the morgue remains full.

Hospitals in Utah, Idaho, Washington and Texas have reached out to St. Peter’s Health looking for beds for patients who cannot be served in their home state. The news comes as facilities in Bozeman and Billings said this week that they are nearing the point of having to implement crisis standards of care.

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