BILLINGS — A Billings hospital was "busy, but manageable" Monday as Yellowstone County and the state continue to see a rise in COVID-19 cases, said St. Vincent Healthcare Chief Operating Officer Michael Skehan.
“It’s a busy time for us at St. Vincent Healthcare, both today and I would say that’s been true really for the last several weeks," Skehan said.
On Monday, St. Vincent Healthcare had 36 people hospitalized with COVID-19, five of whom were in the intensive care unit, Skehan said. The total hospitalized is down from a peak of about 40 than the hospital saw earlier in September.
Yellowstone County added the most new cases of counties around the state Monday with 40. To date, 3,244 Yellowstone County residents have been infected with COVID-19 and 65 have died.
Skehan said St. Vincent leadership meet daily to discuss the COVID-19 trends in the hospital and community. He said the team is comfortable with the amount of preparation put in to deal with a possible surge in cases.
"We’ve got some very solid plans to accommodate the surge. Now having said that, it’s not like we have an endless supply of space, staff and supplies, but at the same time, feeling really good that we’ve thought a lot about where we are and how we need to be there for the community," Skehan said.
If a large surge of COVID-19 patients does come to the hospital, the pressure would be on finding staff to accommodate the need. Bed space and various supplies can be more easily shifted across local and organizational resources, Skehan said.
"The challenge will continue to be, do we have an adequate supply of staff to meet the higher demand. Thankfully we called on our sister hospitals recently. We’ll do it again if needed. But that will be the one challenge that I foresee in the future," Skehan told MTN News.
In early September, St. Vincent Healthcare looked to its sister hospitals in Colorado to share about 30 staff members to accommodate the rise in patients.
Skehan said some new staff members have since been shifted in to the hospital from outside the state to relieve the others who've already spent time in Billings.
St. Vincent Health Care is part of the Yellowstone County Unified Health Command, made up of leaders from both hospitals and the county health department to watch the COVID-19 situation in the county.
Skehan said the Unified Health Command is another resource that can be leveraged if there is a severe spike in COVID-19 cases.
"We’re looking at the data together and doing all we can to make sure that we are here for the community and when things like an uptick inpatient census occur, we’re kind of all in that together. It’s been a great avenue to communicate and to plan and to do all we can to make sure that we’re responding appropriately to COVID-19," Skehan said.
St. Vincent Healthcare is nowhere near having to call in additional state or Montana National Guard resources to care for COVID-19 patients.