Billings Clinic enlists the National Guard to help fight COVID surge

Posted at 6:01 PM, Sep 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-15 20:01:04-04

BILLINGS — Billings Clinic has once again enlisted the help of the Montana National Guard to help with the surge of COVID-19 patients swelling the hospital above capacity.

The last time Billings Clinic had the National Guard's help was in December of 2020, during the area's last big surge of COVID-19.

The National Guard was requested because Billings Clinic’s Intensive Care Unit is at 150 percent capacity, and they are struggling to care for all the patients.

Guard members, who started Wednesday morning, will be tasked with support duties, such as stocking shelves, moving beds and cleaning rooms, which frees up other trained Billings Clinic staff to tend to patients, according to the hospital.

“They’ll be helping us with what we call proning of patients. They’ll also be helping with non-clinical duties. The last time the Guard was here they seamlessly integrated with our team, it was like they were always part of our team and we’re looking forward to that again. I think each day is a new need and they do a great job of being flexible and redirecting for whatever the needs are that day and that shift depending on what our patient population is,” said Laurie Smith, the chief nursing officer for Billings Clinic.

There are 10 National Guard members who are currently helping at Billings Clinic. These 10 members will help for roughly 14 days, working 12-hour shifts each day. Once the 14 days are up, Billings Clinic hopes to bring in another set of troops and continue the cycle for as long as they see necessary.

“Being all Montana residents, we’re here to help our fellow neighbors here in Montana. It’s very valuable for me to be part of that and more reason for me to jump on this opportunity for a second time to continue to provide that support,” said LT. Jessica Calvin, a member of the National Guard, who also helped at Billings Clinic the first time they requested help.

When asked why she came back for a second time, Calvin said this:

“Being in the medical field, I understand the limitations that they’re experiencing, and I see the hardship that they’re experiencing, and I know that I'm able to show up and provide that additional support and feel like I'm a valued member of the team. That’s why I decided to continue with it.”

As of Wednesday morning, Billings clinic has 45 ICU patients. Their normal ICU capacity is normally 28 patients.

Billings Clinic has made extra space for patients by having beds in halls, converting office space and putting up temporary walls in commons areas.