BILLINGS, Mont. - The medical director and department chair of emergency medicine at St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings said things are definitely busy in the emergency department right now and that is affecting wait times.

"Things are definitely busy, Medical Director and Department Chair of Emergency Medicine at St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings Dr. Rich Lammers said. "We're seeing another big blow up of COVID in our community and it's really affecting us. The good thing is though, this is what we do."

"The wait times are up, but we're able to get those patients," Dr. Lammers added. "Patients are safe. We're treating them safely and their needs are being met."

Right now, St. Vincent has 59 inpatients with COVID-19. Fifty of those patients are unvaccinated. There are 12 patients with COVID-19 in the ICU, ten of those are intubated. None of the patients in the ICU are vaccinated.

Dr. Lammers said there are some things that make this surge of COVID different than previous surges:

"That's what's different with the round and this wave of COVID. We definitely are seeing more children who are positive. We're seeing them more in the ER. Thankfully, we're not having to admit many, but it's still definitely there. And, that's different than it was last time."

Dr. Lammers said it was also surprising how fast it blew up and the fact that it happened at this time of year versus winter.

When asked if he is seeing people in the emergency department with complications from the COVID vaccine, Dr. Lammers said:

"The truth is 'no.' In the emergency department, I'm not seeing anyone with complications of getting the vaccine. What we are seeing is all the complications of people not getting the vaccine."

St. Vincent Healthcare created a chart to show people when they should go to the emergency department and when a walk-in clinic or primary care doctor might be the best choice.

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