HELENA — The state of Montana and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.) have entered an agreement to use open beds at the Fort Harrison VA Medical Center to support Montana hospitals’ COVID-19 response.
“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,” Gov. Greg Gianforte said. “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. We will not mandate vaccination in Montana, but these vaccines are safe, they work, and they can save your life.”
The state submitted a formal request to FEMA Region 8 on Wednesday, Sept. 22. The request included permission to use two acute care beds and four medical surge beds at the Fort Harrison VA Medical Center for immediate and short-term medical treatment to support Montana’s COVID-19 response.
Friday morning, FEMA approved the agreement for use of up to six beds by any eligible facility in the state in need of additional capacity.
The beds will be used to care for critical and non-critical COVID positive and non-COVID positive patients who are not otherwise eligible to receive care from the VA. The VA will accept patients if it has the capacity and capability to provide required care.
Like other Montana hospitals, the VA Medical Center at Fort Harrison has been caring for critical COVID patients with physicians and nurses from other states coming to assist during the peaks.
Making these beds available will not change the VA hospital's priority to provide health care for veterans, according to the Montana VA's executive director, Dr. Judy Hayman.
“Veterans are our priority, and we will not compromise access to their VA health care,” said Hayman in a statement. “The Montana VA stands ready to aid our community partners during this public health crisis. We have officially received the request to support our healthcare colleagues and will do our part to provide assistance in decompressing in-patient beds in the community. Our ability to support non-Veteran patients will be based on our current capacity and capabilities. I would to thank our Montana Veterans for doing their part in this pandemic. Without our Montana Veterans supporting physical distancing, enhanced cleanliness standards, maintaining regular medical appointments and getting COVID vaccinations, we would not be able to provide this support to our local community partners.”