St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings flies in additional staff to care for rising number of COVID-19 patients

Posted at 6:59 PM, Sep 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-09 20:59:42-04

BILLINGS — About 20 medical professionals with differing disciplines flew to Billings from Denver Wednesday to assist St. Vincent Healthcare with a spike of patients partially attributed to COVID-19.

“We’ve been dealing with a surge of COVID-19 cases. You add on top of that what we see routinely as an organization, the hospital has been at a pretty high census. With that, we called out to our system colleagues to say, here’s an opportunity. Within a week, we have seen reinforcements come," said Steve Loveless, president of St. Vincent Healthcare and SCL Health Montana.

Over the course of last week, St. Vincent had between 30 and 40 COVID-19 patients in the hospital, Loveless said. Part of the surge in patients also comes from higher demand usually seen this time of year, Loveless said.

“Without COVID-19, we probably wouldn’t be in the same circumstances," Loveless said.

This week, extra staff members who are registered nurses, technicians and respiratory specialists arrived in Billings to lend an extra hand. Two registered nurses and one patient care technician got off the plane from Denver Tuesday.

“Frankly, there may be a need for more, or some will come and go. That (number) could flex up or down. I think it’s just a tremendous demonstration of the value of being part of a strong, healthy health system," Loveless said.

The shared staff members all came from Colorado hospitals that share St. Vincent's parent company, SCL Health. St. Vincent leadership put out the call for more help last week. The extra staff will work in Billings for a period of two to three weeks, depending on their discipline.

Jared Stricker is an emergency department technician for Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. He arrived in Billings last Friday and will work in town for a month.

"Something in your gut that says you have to come help. We've been short-staffed and overwhelmed at Lutheran before. It's an awful feeling. To be able to come in and help ease that burden for them just makes me super proud of the way the system is able to come together and show their strength and unity," Stricker said.

Stricker left a wife, twin seven-year-old boys and a six-week-old son in Colorado to work in Montana.

“I’m also kind of doing this for him. When he’s older, I can look back on it and show him how to be a good man and how to do the right thing and step up when you’re needed," Stricker said.

RELATED: Montana reports 3 additional deaths, 90 new COVID-19 cases (Wednesday, Sept. 9)