Montana hospital ICU reaches 150% capacity amid COVID surge

In Billings, Montana, emergency room doctor Jamiee Belsky can barely keep up with the surge of new COVID-19 patients.

“So we are — we’re getting short on beds,” she said. 

At Billings Clinic, the largest hospital in the state, the ICU is running at 150% capacity with younger and sicker patients admitted daily. The National Guard is on hand to help care for and screen new patients while hallways house the overflow.

“People need to get vaccinated because right now we’re hurting,” Belsky said.

Frank Miller, 59, was hospitalized with COVID-19 more than two weeks ago. The unvaccinated engineer spent more than a week on a ventilator.

“I struggled with it, being on a ventilator,” he said, adding he was “scared out of my mind.”

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Billings Clinic Hospital in Billings, Montana.

“Because you don’t know,” Miller said. “You don’t know what’s happening. Afterward. I thought I’d come right out of it and I would be okay. And all of a sudden I couldn’t move my hands. I couldn’t feed myself.”

In the past week, Montana averaged about 108 COVID-19 patients in hospital ICUs — breaking the record seen during the winter of 2020. Thirty-five people have died in the state since the start of the month.

“You have good days, you have bad days,” Belsky said. “I have days I have to call my college buddies and say, ‘Hey man, it’s been a bad day. We lost a tough patient last night.'”