Gianforte said last week he is assigning National Guard members to give beleaguered hospitals additional hands on deck. Including assignments to Livingston, Whitefish, Kalispell and Plains announced Friday, the state now has 124 guard members assigned to health facilities around the state. Gianforte’s office and the state Department of Public Health and Human Services have also issued an emergency rule intended to make it easier to free up hospital beds by transferring patients between facilities. The new agreement with the VA gives Montana hospitals permission to transfer patients to as many as two acute care beds and four medical surge beds at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Fort Harrison hospital in Helena. The governor’s office says the VA will accept patients “if it has the capacity and capability to provide required care.” “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,” Gianforte said in a statement. The governor also re-upped his call for unvaccinated Montnans to consider getting a shot, calling it “the best solution to this crisis.” “We will not mandate vaccination in Montana,” Gianforte said, “but these vaccines are safe, they work, and they can save your life.” To date, the state has recorded 1,945 deaths officially attributed to the virus, including 68 in the last week.
We’ve secured an agreement with the feds to use open beds at the Fort Harrison VA Medical Center to support hospitals’ COVID-19 response.— Governor Greg Gianforte (@GovGianforte) September 24, 2021
While this is another important tool, the best solution remains Montanans talking with their doctor or pharmacist and getting vaccinated.
Eric Dietrich is a journalist and data designer and the founder of the Long Streets economic reporting project. His reporting focuses broadly on Montana’s governance and economic opportunity, with particular focus on the state budget and tax policy. He also contributes data reporting across the MTFP newsroom. Before joining the MTFP staff in 2019, he worked for the Great Falls Tribune, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, and Solutions Journalism Network and also earned an engineering degree from Montana State University. Contact Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org, 406-465-3386 ext. 2, and follow him on Twitter.
Note: This story originally appeared on Montana Free Press. It is published under a Creative Commons license.
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