Montana Doctor Says Hospital Is ‘Strapped Thin’

A person exits from the Billings Clinic in Billings, Mont., on Wednesday. Montana has seen a surge in cases.

Lynn Donaldson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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Lynn Donaldson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A person exits from the Billings Clinic in Billings, Mont., on Wednesday. Montana has seen a rise in cases.

Lynn Donaldson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In action, she states the medical facility has double or multiple tenancy, which suggests more than one patient can be in one room of the ICU. Theyre also holding ICU clients beyond the typical location.

Interview Highlights

” Our medical facility is strapped thin,” she says. “Weve come up with excellent out-of-the-box solutions and were continuing to have the ability to care for patients at a very high level. If the pandemic continues accelerating at the rate its at, things are going to be getting very, tough and very restricted decisions will have to be made.”

Dr. Jamie Riha, a crucial care professional at the Billings Clinic in Billings, tells NPRs Morning Edition the facility has “a vital level of clients in our ICU.”

The coronavirus pandemic is hitting the Midwest and mountain states hard right now, including Montana, where some hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID-19 clients.

After largely steady numbers in the double digits for most of the summertime, daily new cases in Montana started an upward spike in late September. The state averaged 866 cases per day this week. Nearly 500 individuals in Montana have actually died.

NPRs Noel King talked to Riha about how her clients are doing, how the staff is coping and what Americans can do to help.

Riha urges everyone to use masks to “help get this pandemic under better control.”

On how the patients are doing

The patients are sadly extremely, really ill and they are extremely scared. And they, unfortunately, once they reach the intensive care level, they understand that theres an extremely great possibility they may regrettably not make it through, and so patients are really frightened.

And its one of the biggest challenges– emotional challenges, I must state– for doctors and nurses … caring for these patients is that we are so strapped today. Therefore tight and trying to cover all of the ICU clients that we are unable to spend lengthy amounts of time with these clients, soothing them or providing the psychological support that they require.

And so it is very challenging for the clients. They are able to link with their households through cellphones. And we likewise do have iPads so that patients can get in touch with them via FaceTime or Zoom also. It still is a very lonesome, separating disease for the patients in the hospital.

On one specific experience she cant leave her mind

And it was among the most traumatic experiences for me, along with multiple members of the group, because those two kids lost their mama. And it actually affected me, not even if I had to look at the grief and loss that her household and her children were experiencing, but because she was genuinely an otherwise healthy woman. And I think numerous individuals think that this illness just threatens the lives of the elderly or those with really sick persistent medical conditions. And its not real. It can take the life of anyone.

Theres numerous patients that have actually affected me deeply. She d been in the medical facility for just about two days and the condition of her lungs declined substantially adequate to the point of requiring ICU level care. And regrettably, regardless of showing up to the ICU talking, roughly 3 or four hours later, she died very quickly due to problems from COVID.

On how she is coping

It still is a really lonesome, separating disease for the clients in the medical facility.

Theres numerous patients that have affected me deeply.

Its an obstacle. I attempt when Im off work to separate as much as possible. I spend time with my husband and my 2 young kids, but its a challenge.

Ashley Westerman and Simone Popperl produced and edited the audio interview. Christianna Silva produced for the Web.

“Weve come up with terrific out-of-the-box options and were continuing to be able to care for clients at a very high level. The clients are regrettably really, very sick and they are very scared. And they, sadly, once they reach the intensive care level, they know that theres a very great chance they might unfortunately not make it through, and so patients are extremely frightened.