St. Peter's Health: 'We are in crisis standards of care'

St. Peter's Health
Posted at 11:09 AM, Sep 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-16 13:29:07-04

HELENA — St. Peter’s Health has announced they are in “crisis care” as its hospital critical care unit has reached full capacity.

Crisis Care Standards occur when it is no longer possible to deliver the normal standard of care to all persons in need. The need occurs when healthcare resources are overwhelmed by a disaster or emergency.

Under crisis care, hospital staff may be forced to evaluate patients on survivability and will move resources to patients that have a better chance of survival. St. Peter’s says crisis standards are not a flipped switch situation, but a stepped approached without official levels and different departments may be at different levels depending on the number and severity of patients they are dealing with.

On Thursday, the regional hospital said their Intensive Care Unit and Advanced Medical Unit are at 100% capacity. Their morgue is also full right now, and they’ve requested a freezer truck.

Chief Medical Officer Shelly Harkins says the latest COVID surge is different and worse than what was experienced in November 2020.

The hospital is urging patients not to delay care and come to the ER or Urgent Care if they are in need. Catching a medical issue early can help prevent it from becoming life-threatening.

While not all patients needing critical care are COVID related, the surge of COVID patients needing critical care in conjunction with other critical patients has pushed the hospital to its limits.

St. Peter’s has requested assistance from the Montana National Guard in responding to the crisis. They are unsure if the request will be granted.

On top of the pandemic, St. Peter’s is facing a staffing shortage and burnout of current employees. The health care organization says they have 200 open positions that aren’t filled.

St. Peter’s is also receiving a high number of calls from other hospitals in the state and neighboring states to see about bed availability.

Bozeman Health said it is "dangerously close" to implementing surge plans due to COVID cases, and Billings Clinic is on the verge of implementing crisis care standards.

In addition, all of Idaho is now operating under crisis care standards.

There were 1,183 new COVID cases reported in Montana on Wednesday, September 15, with a current total of 8,670 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 people currently hospitalized due to COVID is 364, up from 362 on Tuesday. The cumulative number of hospitalizations in Montana due to the virus is 6,826.

The number of Montanans who have died due to COVID is now 1,858, an increase of 11 since Tuesday, according to DPHHS.

An estimated 51% of eligible residents are now vaccinated, with 475,440 Montanans now considered fully vaccinated. If you want to get vaccinated, contact your county health department, or click here.

There have been 137,389 cumulative cases of COVID in Montana. The cumulative number of recoveries is now 126,861. There have been 10,318 COVID tests administered since Tuesday.


  • Yellowstone County: 251 new; 1,986 active
  • Flathead County: 152 new; 1,083 active
  • Missoula County: 151 new; 1,007 active
  • Cascade County: 113 new; 962 active
  • Gallatin County: 138 new; 627 active
  • Lewis & Clark County: 36 new; 525 active
  • Lincoln County: 50 new; 353 active
  • Ravalli County: 20 new; 280 active
  • Lake County: 22 new; 138 active
  • Custer County: 31 new; 132 active
  • Silver Bow County: 9 new; 133 active
  • Park County: 17 new; 120 active
  • Hill County: 25 new; 111 active
  • Madison County: 13 new; 104 active

The information above is from the DPHHS website and is current as of Tuesday, September 14, 2021.