Billing, Montana – Montana, the first state to banmandates for employees, has one of the lowest immunization rates and highest hospitalization rates in the country. Some hospitals have reached the point of no longer accepting new patients and are preparing to ration care.
The Billings Clinic Intensive Care Unit is operating at 175% capacity. Dr Jaimee Belsky, an emergency doctor there, is trying to deal with the crash of COVID patients. The hospital’s emergency department is “beyond banging right now,” a spokesperson said, adding that the ward had 9 patients in intensive care and 13 more waiting to be seen.
“I keep a scalpel in my pocket in case we have an emergency airway,” Belsky said. “We’re getting to where if we don’t see an improvement in patient numbers, we will soon have to start looking at whether we need to ration care? “
Pam Lee’s 35-year-old daughter Hilary is one of those patients fighting for their lives. The restaurant manager planned to be vaccinated against COVID but contracted the disease in late September. In less than two weeks, she was on a ventilator.
“I was a nurse for over 40 years. And so I knew it could happen. I prayed that it would never happen, but here we are,” Lee said. “I can’t even think. It’s painful to watch, and these things can be avoided.”
Belsky urged people to tell their friends and family about the possibility of getting the vaccine. In Montana, only 57% of people eligible to receive the vaccine have been vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Explain to them, ‘Yes, it’s getting better in parts of the United States, but it’s getting worse here,'” Belsky said.
After contracting COVID, Lee’s daughter spent days calling all of her unvaccinated friends, telling them to get the vaccine. Her family can only hope that it is not too late for her.