The CEO of the Montana hospital, which misplaced a health care provider to Covid, expects a rise in reference to Thanksgiving

Dr. Scott Ellner, the executive director of a health care system in Montana that is already “full or overburdened,” told CNBC on Monday that it had plans to deal with an increase in Covid-19 patients due to Thanksgiving gatherings.

“In Montana, our community, our people believe in their personal freedoms, and we expect Thanksgiving weekend to rise,” said Ellner, whose nonprofit Billings Clinic also serves Wyoming and the western Dakotas. Health experts have warned that indoor gatherings could worsen an already accelerated U.S. coronavirus outbreak this fall.

“We have actually turned to assisted living facilities that are able to care for patients we place outside of our hospital,” Ellner added in an interview with Squawk on the Street. “We also work with our critical access hospitals across the state that are affiliated with the Billings Clinic and they have admitted patients as well.”

The healthcare system, which is based in Montana’s largest city, has taken various other steps to increase hospital capacity in response to an “exponential increase” in coronavirus cases in November, Ellner said. The state has 61,801 confirmed infections, nearly half of which were registered in the last month, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In the past two months, hospital stays in Montana have risen sharply. On October 1, according to the COVID Tracking Project, which is being carried out by journalists in the Atlantic, 178 patients with Covid-19 were currently hospitalized. As of Sunday, 461 patients had been hospitalized in the state.

Signage outside the Billings Clinic in Billings, Montana, November 11, 2020.

Lynn Donaldson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

“We are full or overloaded,” said Ellner. “We’re building every possible infrastructure, including more airflow rooms. We’ve added over 90 negative airflow rooms. We’ve expanded offices to accommodate ICU capacity, and we’ve created double occupancy so we can allow patients to do this.” be in one room together to meet the needs. “

The rising Covid-19 outbreak has also put a personal burden on health system workers, Ellner said.

“Unfortunately, the most sobering thing we actually saw last weekend was that we lost one of our doctors to Covid. That hits our workforce, our Billings Clinic family, pretty hard,” he said.

Hospital staff levels were a concern during the fall in Covid-19 cases as heavy epidemics in many states threatened the availability of additional workers to help in hard-hit areas. “What we don’t have is the rich occupation that other, more urban states have. That is our biggest challenge,” Rich Rasmussen, CEO of the Montana Hospital Association, told CNBC earlier this month.

Ellner, a surgeon who previously taught at the University of Connecticut Medical School, said Billings Clinic staff continue to provide top-notch treatments despite the stress. “It’s just a lot of work to wear more personal protective equipment and these patients are so critically ill that caring for these acute patients takes a lot more effort and time,” he said. “We are able to deliver absolutely superb quality. It’s all about increasing the workforce to cope with the stress of these extremely sick patients.”

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