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BOZEMAN, Mont. – Health officials at Bozeman Health and the Gallatin City-County Health Department are warning of increasing COVID-19 cases and hospital strain with staffing shortages.

“We have had days where all our regular beds in the emergency department were full and we were using hallway spaces,” Pediatric Dr. Kathryn Bertany of Bozeman Health said during a Friday press conference on Aug. 27.

According to Bozeman Health COVID-19 Deputy Incident Command Lead Louis Mendiola, the hospital has brought in 35 to 40 emergency staffing to keep up with the filling beds and expect 20 additional resources to arrive this week to help with the hospital strain.

“Beds as far away as Seattle are filling up, rural communities in Eastern Idaho aren’t able to use the traditional transfer channels that they have into these larger systems so they are looking elsewhere, as this continues if we do not get a grip on this as a community, as a region, local community, the ability to move patients to higher levels of care will become more and more difficult," Mendiola said.

Pulmonologist and Critical Care Physician Dr. Andrew Sullivan at Bozeman Health said on Aug. 27 that out of 12 of their licensed intensive care beds, seven of them were full with patients who have COVID pneumonia, four on life support and three not yet on life support.

“All of those are unvaccinated individuals, we have not seen somebody vaccinated on life support for COVID-19," Sullivan said.

Dr. Kathryn Bertany said in the past six to eight weeks, many of the beds at Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital were 100% full and at Big Sky Medical Center they have seen a 100% increase in visits with a majority being COVID positive patients.

Dr. Bertany also acknowledged that the hospital beds are not just COVID-19 patients who need care.

At Bozeman Health there are 19 antepartum and postpartum beds, 20 critical care unit beds and around 60 other beds designated for trauma, stroke and other non-covid uses.

According to the latest Gallatin County weekly COVID-19 surveillance report, non-critical beds were filled up to 69% and critical care beds were 75% occupied, but COVID-19 Deputy Incident Command Lead Louis Mendiola said the number fluctuates and bed management is a complex process.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services latest COVID-19 hospital occupancy and capacity report on Aug. 30 said Bozeman Health Big Sky Medical and Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital have 89% of inpatient beds filled.

Gallatin County Health Officer Lori Christenson also commented on COVID-19 testing at the Aug, 27 press conference, specifically when it comes to the Delta variant. 

Christenson said not all COVID positive tests go on to be sequenced to identify which variant a person has and in terms of public health safety, nothing changes for someone who has to isolate and quarantine with the Delta variant compared to another variant.

Dr. Andrew Sullivan agreed with Christenson saying it's not important to them to know which variant of COVID-19 you have – just that you get treated and help stop the spread.

“We treat all the variants the same, so I have no idea which one of my patients has Delta variant or not, they get the exact same treatments and so clinically it’s not useful to know,” Dr. Sullivan said.

You can find the most up-to-date information on COVID as well as more information on where to find a vaccine here.

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