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Deaconess Hospital reaches capacity in critical care unit

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PHOTO BY MARTHA DOMINGUEZ DE GOUVEIA/UNSPLASH

Bozeman Health plans adjustments, urges vaccinations

By Bella Butler EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital reported on Sept. 15 that many units in the hospital are at or nearing capacity. Bozeman Health is actively planning adjustments including staffing redistributions and utilizing unlicensed hospital beds.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Deaconess Hospital had 16 COVID-19-positive inpatients, six of whom were in critical care, and Big Sky Medical Center had two COVID-19-positive inpatients. The critical care unit at Deaconess was at 100 percent capacity, the medical unit was at 95 percent and the surgical unit was at 114 percent.

Bozeman Health incident command and executive leadership are working to implement staffing redistribution and surge plans to address the increase in patients, which may include utilizing unlicensed beds in other areas of the hospital like procedural and emergency departments.

Other hospitals around the state face similar capacity deficits, making it a challenge to divert patients to other locations. On Tuesday, the Billings Gazette reported that the Billings Clinic was at 150 percent capacity, and that the clinic was considering implementing “crisis standards of care,” which shifts focus “from individual patients to the good of the community,” and are put into place when demand exceeds available resources, according to the Montana Department of Health and Human Services.

“It is not the first time that we have been at 100 percent [capacity],” said Bozeman Health Incident Commander Kallie Kujawa on a Sept. 15 press call. “But it is the first time that we have seriously started opening a surge unit … this is one of the first times that we’ve experienced this amount of diversion in the neighboring hospitals.”

While BSMC has four licensed beds but no critical or intensive care unit, the surge plan is system-wide across Bozeman Health facilities. With two COVID-19-positive inpatients, BSMC is at 50 percent capacity. Four more beds at BSMC are currently going through the licensing process.

“We are seeing more inpatients at Big Sky Medical Center than we’ve seen, especially COVID-positive patients, we’re seeing a lot more of those,” Kujawa said.

Because larger regional hospitals like Deaconess are facing capacity shortages, smaller critical access hospitals like BSMC and the Madison Valley Medical Center in Ennis are forced to keep patients instead of transferring them, according to Kujawa. “It has a big domino effect,” she said.

“This news is concerning,” said Gallatin City-County Health Officer Lori Christenson. “And it’s coupled with the fact that we have been experiencing high community transmission for a number of weeks now.”

“We want to avoid any closures of non-essential services so that we can continue to meet all the needs of the community,” Kujawa said. “And we’re asking for your partnership in that. And an absolute important way to do that right now is to get vaccinated if you have not been vaccinated, and to follow all of the other infection prevention measures that we have continuously shared with everyone.”

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