HELENA — St. Peter’s Health announced Monday that their operations will work under a contingency standard of care. The regional medical center had been under crisis standards of care since September due to the recent wave of COVID cases filling hospital beds.
"Our move away from crisis standards of care is not an on/off switch, it is more like a dimmer switch as the situation on the ground changes," said St. Peter's Chief Medical Officer and President of the Regional Medical Center, Dr. Shelly Harkins. "Our status can change quickly based on the current number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19, staffing, availability of other resources like medications, and more."
Based on the 4 criteria of staffing, patient space, standard of care, and supplies the St. Peter’s Covid-19 Response Team decided that if the Covid-19 situation improved enough they could move away from the crisis standards of care adopted during the surge that occurred in the early fall.
During the height of the pandemic in fall 2021, St. Peter's say they saw many weeks with 20-30 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 each day, peaking at 44 on a single day in mid-October, which represented over 50 percent of their adult, inpatient medical beds.
There are fewer Covid-19 patients in the hospital now, and supply and space has improved, but staffing continues to be a challenge. While this is a step away from crisis standards operations, things are still not back to normal and could change at any moment.
“As Doctor Harkins has shared, it is not an on/off switch. It is much more like a dimmer switch where we make tweaks to our operations based on what we are seeing on the ground,” says Katie Gallagher, public relations manager at St. Peter’s Health.
Gallagher says the community needs to remain vigilant. They ask the community to follow guidelines laid out during the past year and a half, like wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and getting vaccinated.
“But the basic precautions that we've been talking about for the last two years remain critically important. And so, as the holidays come, as we're gathering with friends and family, please continue to take those basic precautions,” says Gallagher.
While current Covid-19 levels allow for this particular hospital standard of care, only time will tell if such precautions will continue to be alleviated or resurrected.