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St. Peter's Health will stop rationing care amid decline in COVID hospitalizations

As COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide decline, at least one hospital has moved away from rationing care. But many large hospitals are still struggling with patient loads and staffing.

St. Peter’s Health in Helena announced this week that it was stepping away from rationing care in part due to the declining COVID hospitalizations, but noted that the hospital was still busy caring for other patients.

On Tuesday, the state health department reported there were about 130 COVID-19 hospitalizations, continuing a steady decline since mid-October when hospitalizations peaked during the surge brought on by the Delta variant.

Montana Hospital Association CEO Rich Rasmussen says despite hospitalizations declining statewide, issues around bed capacity and staffing at hospitals remain fluid.

"We still have some hospitals that are bumping up against their staffing capacities.”

According to figures reported Monday, eight out of Montana’s 10 largest hospitals were above 70 or 90 percent of their bed capacity. Those figures can change rapidly, but show how hospitals remain busy even with the number of coronavirus patients on the decline.

Rasmussen says many hospitals are working to address those problems ahead of the expected surge from the omicron variant.

"We tend to surge after the rest of the nation has surged," Rasmussen said.

Montana reported its first confirmed omicron case Monday. Cases nationwide have spiked in recent days as omicron has become the dominant strain of coronavirus in the U.S.
Copyright 2021 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Aaron is Montana Public Radio's Flathead reporter.