The weekend Amtrak train derailment in rural north-central Montana that killed three people and sent several passengers to far-flung hospitals further burdened ICUs full of COVID-19 patients.
The Benefis Health System hospital in Great Falls, Mont., is a bit over 100 miles from the wreck, and took in some of the people who were more seriously injured in Sunday's accident.
“We ended up receiving five patients from the accident,” said spokesperson Kaci Husted. “And all five of them are still in house here with us.”
The derailment, which occurred near the community of Joplin, happened when the hospital had already been packed for weeks.
“We’ve been operating above 100% of our typical capacity for several weeks now,” Husted said. “Somewhere in the 110% to somewhere in the 130ish% of our capacity range is what we’re seeing on a day-to-day basis.”
Husted said they’re currently waiting on outside help from the National Guard.
When asked whether they would have had room for more if the accident had been worse, Husted said, “I’m sure you can get lots of different opinions on that...but the reality is, we’re committed to taking care of our patients when they need us, and we were able to care for these five patients.”
Much of the hospital crowding in the region is being driven by unvaccinated COVID-19 patients infected by the delta variant.
Logan Health in Kalispell, Mont., – more than 200 miles from the accident – was at 94% capacity as of Monday morning and took in two patients from the derailment.
Federal investigators are looking into what caused the incident.
A train crash is just one kind of accident that can put hospitals over the top right now, though. Fall will mean potential hazards like icy roads, migrating animals, hunting and fall sports.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Nevada Public Radio, Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
You won’t find a paywall here. Come as often as you like — we’re not counting. You’ve found a like-minded tribe that cherishes what a free press stands for. If you can spend another couple of minutes making a pledge of as little as $5, you’ll feel like a superhero defending democracy for less than the cost of a month of Netflix.