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Montana Hospitals In ‘Dire’ Straits As COVID Rages


Hospitals move to ‘crisis standard of care’ as patients overwhelm resources, and the state urges retired nurses to return to work.

Montana Free Press

by Justin Franz

09.17.2021 A month ago, fearing the worst, Montana’s medical community sounded the alarm, urging residents to get vaccinated and mask up as the Delta variant of COVID-19 began to spread. Now it appears the worst is arriving.

This week, hospitals from Billings to Missoula are instituting or preparing to institute a “crisis standard of care” under which medical services and supplies are rationed. While case numbers are still slightly lower than they were last winter during the virus’ previous peak, hospitals are being overwhelmed with COVID patients, many of them unvaccinated.

“It is really dire,” said Dr. James McKay, chief physician executive for Providence Montana, which oversees St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula and St. Joseph Medical Center in Polson. “It has never been this bad.”

According to the New York Times, the number of cases in Montana has jumped 55% in the last two weeks, the largest spike in the nation during that time. On Friday, the state reports 1,209 new cases in Montana and more than 9,500 active cases (as of Monday 1,...