Sep 25, 2021 - Health

Montana VA medical center to treat non-veterans amid COVID surge

Billings Clinic in Billings, Montana, U.S. on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2020.

Billings Clinic in Billings, Montana, on Nov. 11, 2020. Photo: Lynn Donaldson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A veterans medical facility in Montana is planning to accept non-eligible patients as a COVID-19 surge overwhelms nearby hospitals in the state, CNN reports.

Why it matters: The move underscores the dire health situation in Montana due to the latest COVID-19 case surge, where some hospitals in the state have started to consider rationing care, according to the Montana Free Press.

Driving the news: "With more hospital beds available, hospitals now have another tool in their toolbox to treat Montanans in need of care as their systems are strained," Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) said Friday in a statement.

  • The additional hospital beds at Fort Harrison VA Medical Center will be used to treat patients with COVID-19 and those without — individuals who otherwise would not be able to be treated at a VA hospital.
  • FEMA this week approved the agreement for the state to use the open beds at the medical center.

By the numbers: Montana experienced a COVID-19 positivity rate this week between 15 and 19.9%, making it one of five states with the highest case rate as of Friday, according to CDC data.

  • The state is using 46% of its adult intensive care unit beds to treat patients with COVID-19, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • About 52% of Montana's eligible population is fully vaccinated, per state data.

What they're saying: "While this is another important tool, the best solution to this crisis remains Montanans talking with their doctor or pharmacist and getting vaccinated against COVID-19," Gianforte said on Friday.

  • "We will not mandate vaccination in Montana, but these vaccines are safe, they work, and they can save your life."
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