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Montana To Release Hospital COVID-19 Numbers

Free-standing ERs tend to have lower standby costs than hospital-based facilities that have to be ready to treat dire injuries. But the free-standing ERs typically receive the same Medicare rate for emergency services.
An emergency entrance

After days of record COVID-19 cases, Montana health officials say they’ll start releasing daily hospital capacity numbers. Health care providers say hospitals will be overwhelmed if Montanans can’t flatten the curve.

The daily reports will include the total number of hospital beds and ventilators in the state, as well as Intensive Care Unit capacity and the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized.

Jim Murphy, Communicable Disease and Laboratory Services Division Administrator, said on Oct. 7 this information, which all Montana hospitals are reporting into a national database, will help facilities make decisions about staffing and transferring patients.

“This information is going to be useful for medical providers, but we also hope it will be informative for the general public. Right now our hospitals for the most part are able to meet the other needs that come up in their communities. That’s not going to be the case as we move into the fall if these trends continue,” Murphy said.

Murphy said around 235 patients with coronavirus are currently hospitalized in 20 different hospitals across the state.

He said Montana needs to slow down the virus’ spread.

“The hospitals that we’ve been talking to are stressed as we move into the fall season. Over the last few weeks, several have been at or near capacity, and a few have had to divert patients to other facilities," Murphy said.

In the past two weeks, the weekly number of reported cases in the state has doubled. Petroleum County, the last county in Montana without a COVID-19 case, added their first case this week.

While Bighorn, Roosevelt and Rosebud counties have seen decreases in their number of cases, 18 counties had significant increases.

Montana hit another record on Oct. 7 with 733 new cases, although part of the jump is due to a reporting lag.

Missoula County says more than 200 of Oct. 7 cases were already reported locally and that the state health department’s report is a catch up.

The state updates its coronavirus dashboard each morning at 10.