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CFVH Staff Covid Update 8/18/21

CFVH staff,

You have probably heard of the increased difficulty we have had in transferring patients that we believe need care we cannot offer. I want to give perspective on this and other issues we have or may be facing. I currently serve as Board Chair for the Montana Hospital Association and was asked to joined a call with the state PPS hospital Chief Medical Officers this morning. Each reported their current bed and staff situation, covid activity, and staffing struggles.

I will start by stating we are not alone. Every single entity is short of staff (nursing and support staff are the most common). DES shared that the national emergency staffing request system has 4000 nursing position requests, and received no responses in the last 2 days. Every one of the hospitals are either at capacity due to staffing, or most actually have all of their beds full, many with temporary surge beds being used so they are above usual capacity. Several have double digit numbers of patients in the ER waiting for beds. Surgeries are now being cancelled at some facilities and all are putting plans in place for that to occur. The volumes are related to high numbers of non-covid related needs as well as covid-19 infections. 90% of the covid in Montana is of the Delta variant and as such we are seeing patients much younger than during the last surge that occurred. 85-90% of those hospitalized have not been vaccinated.

Though PPE seems to be adequate now, there are beginning to be other supply roadblocks including oxygen, loss of contracted support services (e.g. laundry), and food service delivery in various areas of the country and state. We have been placed on allocation for PCR testing supplies (we currently have plenty of the antigen test we have made available for self-referred testing). Our facilities and RT staff scrambled to assure we had oxygen to meet needs for our current patients, but we will be dealing with the same issues as others. Patient transportation has shown signs of demand being greater than can be met. Discharging patients that need long term care placement is again coming to a standstill which further ties up acute care beds.

These and other issues are likely to become more common as we deal with the current Covid surge. It appears we will be significantly stressed, perhaps even more so than during the last surge. My intent in sharing this information is not to scare anyone or cause more anxiety, but to share what the reality is. It is important we remember why we have chosen our respective careers and positions here. We are truly interested in helping our friends, families, and neighbors in their time of need. To do so under the circumstances we have functioned over the last 18 months has required we be patient with one another, harboring a belief that we are each doing our best, and be supportive in any way that is helpful. In the 50 years CFVH has existed, I don’t believe there has ever been a time it was more needed. So, if the burden is feeling particularly heavy, please reach out. We want to find a way to help you.

Thank you for your commitment to our mission, your dedication to our patients, and your untiring efforts. Our commitment to working as a team will get us through any challenges we will face.

Gregory S. Hanson, MD

Family Medicine Network

Healthcare across Sanders County

Thompson Falls


Hot Springs