Butte hospital is accepting patients outside of county to ease COVID crisis in other MT hospitals

coronavirus COVID-19
Posted at 9:39 AM, Sep 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-18 11:39:51-04

BUTTE — St. James Healthcare in Butte is accepting patients from outside of the county to help other Montana hospitals that are establishing crisis standards of care in the Treasure State due to the recent spike of COVID-19 cases.

In a social media post, hospital officials said that as of today, nine people are hospitalized at St. James with COVID-19 illness -- six of those individuals are from outside the county. Of those nine, three are in St. James' intensive care unit, with two of those ICU patients on ventilators. Of the nine, seven were not vaccinated, two were. The age range of the patients is 50s to '70s.

St. Peter's Hospital in Helena has established crisis standards of care, which means the hospital is forced to ration care and supplies. Hospitals in Missoula, Bozeman and Billings are preparing to establish crisis standards of care.

There were 1,209 new COVID cases reported in Montana on Friday, September 17, with a current total of 9,545 active cases in the state, according to the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services (DPHHS).

Information from DPHHS at this point does not include data on whether new cases occurred among vaccinated or unvaccinated people.

The number of Montanans who have died due to COVID is now 1,877, an increase of 12 since Thursday, according to DPHHS.

The number of people currently hospitalized due to COVID is 361, up from 355 on Thursday. The cumulative number of hospitalizations in Montana due to the virus is 6,911.

An estimated 51% of eligible residents are now vaccinated, with 477,447 Montanans now considered fully vaccinated. If you want to get vaccinated, contact your county health department, or click here.


  • Yellowstone County: 179 new; 2,329 active
  • Flathead County: 146 new; 1,042 active
  • Missoula County: 113 new; 1,038 active
  • Cascade County: 130 new; 976 active
  • Gallatin County: 107 new; 695 active
  • Lewis & Clark County: 74 new; 585 active
  • Lincoln County: 34 new; 359 active
  • Ravalli County: 28 new; 318 active
  • Lake County: 38 new; 160 active
  • Custer County: 25 new; 150 active
  • Silver Bow County: 44 new; 143 active
  • Hill County: 24 new; 135 active
  • Park County: 15 new; 135 active
  • Sanders County: 40 new; 124 active
  • Madison County: 17 new; 115 active

There have been 139,712 cumulative cases of COVID in Montana. The cumulative number of recoveries is now 128,290. There have been 7,928 COVID tests administered since Thursday.
Three Yellowstone County people died Thursday of COVID-19 illness, RiverStone Health reported Friday. None of these men had been fully vaccinated and all had underlying medical conditions that put them at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness. All were hospitalized when they died.

The fatalities include: a man in his 40s who was unvaccinated, a man in his 60s who had the first dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine and a man in his 70s who was unvaccinated.

On Friday, Billings Clinic and St. Vincent Healthcare reported 109 hospitalized patients with COVID-19 illness, including 89 people who were not fully vaccinated. The hospitals had 35 COVID-19 patients in ICU and 26 on ventilators.

So far, 51% of Yellowstone County’s age 12 and older population has been fully vaccinated against the pandemic virus, according to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. That’s 69,082 people vaccinated out of a population of 164,000, including children under age 12.

As of Friday, Yellowstone County had nearly 25% of all the active cases in the state and twice as many cases as any other county, according to DPHHS.

Leaders from Missoula's healthcare providers and every corner of local government and business are calling on people to get vaccinated and renew precautions to stop the explosion of COVID-19 that has "absolutely overwhelmed" local hospitals.

That was the message from a 45-minute online press conference Friday morning, where hospital administrators told of a surge in cases that's so bad the National Guard will be coming in to help next week.

Mayor John Engen announced the National Guard will be assisting St. Patrick Hospital, Community Medical Center, and the Missoula City-County Health Department to respond to the surge of cases, which eclipsed last winter's records this week.

Office of Emergency Management Director Adriane Beck said the 24-personnel will help with staffing shortages at the hospital, and also the re-opening of the "Sleepy Inn" quarantine site, the former motel the city purchased and operated during the height of the earlier pandemic surge last winter.

Following the press conference, Governor Gianforte's spokeswoman, Brooke Stroyke, said "the state received St. Patrick's formal request for resources at 9:45 am today. We are evaluating all requests the state has received to determine how the state can best allocate our limited resources."

With overflowing waiting rooms, Missoula's St. Patrick Hospital expanded into the ambulance bay with temporary clinical spaces. And based on the severity of conditions, patients are triaged.

“The concern is what we saw happen in Idaho," McKay said.

Just next door to Montana, healthcare is being rationed. As of Thursday morning, Idaho is operating a crisis standard of care statewide.

“In a nutshell, what that means is if you have three patients and you only have two beds. One patient is going to go without a bed, without appropriate treatment," McKay explained.

But that isn’t just COVID-19 patients affected- it’s people with heart attacks, strokes, and other traumas.

Another hurdle is that 56 staff members at St.Pats are currently out sick with COVID-19 or are in quarantine, further adding to the ongoing worker shortage strain.

Missoula County broke two COVID-19 records Thursday. Hospitalizations rose to 46 in the county as of Thursday, surpassing the record high of 43, which was initially set in November of 2020.

The record for average daily new cases also hit a new high with 86 cases per 100,000 in the past seven days. That record was also previously set in November.

At hospitals, conditions are worsening with reports of younger and sicker patients than before.

“It's really important for people to understand that this has been going on for 18 months but right now it is here in western Montana. This is absolutely the worst it's been since this started," James McKay, St. Patrick Hospital chief physician executive, told MTN News.

McKay reports the St. Patrick Hospital emergency room is overwhelmed with the high volume of COVID-symptomatic patients. Exposed patients also cause growing procedural complications.

“We have also a number of patients who are on the floors who aren't COVID positive but have had exposures and so they're on quarantine," McKay said. "What that means is that we have to take the same kind of precautions as we do with COVID patients."

Beaverhead County is experiencing a surge of COVID cases, according to the county's health department.

Beaverhead County Public Health said on Facebook the department is "overwhelmed" and asks the public for patience as it works to conduct case investigations.