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Billings healthcare workers discuss experiences one year into pandemic

COVID vaccine
Posted at 7:27 PM, Mar 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-12 21:39:20-05

Healthcare workers in Billings say that today is a time to reflect on the challenges they and community members have faced and the loved ones lost since the pandemic started.

This week marks the one-year anniversary since Billings hospitals had their first positive COVID-19 cases.

Rich Lammers, medical director and department chair for emergency medicine for St. Vincent Healthcare, said Friday afternoon that when COVID hit, the future was unknown.

“There was a sense of, how hard do we attack this? How strict and safe do we get? We didn’t have a lot of cases here in Billings, but we saw what was happening in other communities,” said Lammers.

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Rich Lammers St. Vincent medical director and dept. chair

Lammers said the initial thought was to plan for how to tackle an influx of cases. Now things are starting to feel safer.

“We definitely have less cases and things seem to be on the up and up, and so I think everybody does feel a lot safer. We’ve got a vaccine…working with St. Vincent and SCL Health along with Billings Clinic and with RiverStone and with everybody, we are all able to work together and get those vaccines out,” said Lammers.

Frontline workers at Billings Clinic felt similar experiences at the start of the pandemic.

Kelly Hundtofte, emergency room nurse for Billings Clinic, said she was in the emergency room when the first positive patient came to the hospital.

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Kelly Hudtofte ER nurse

“It was really scary, you know, we had PPE, we had plans in place to keep everyone safe and we had procedures set in place. But actually talking about something and then actually having to do it is a different thing,” said Hundtofte.

Jackson Klee, emergency room patient care tech for Billings Clinic, said people have learned a lot since the start of the pandemic.

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Jackson Klee ER patient care tech for Billings Clinic

“There has been a lot of challenges, especially in the beginning when we just had to learn about it and there were so many different things changing. It was really tough. But that is what the ER is there for. We adapted and made it through,” said Klee.

Health care facilities are asking the community to participate in a community howl at 8 p.m. Friday to honor those who have worked tirelessly to keep the community safe.