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Missoula doctors: Continued surge in COVID will soon tip local healthcare system

As emergency physicians at Community Medical Center and Providence St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, we would like to give you a view from inside our local hospitals regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

With Missoula’s spike in patients infected with the COVID-19 virus, we are seeing a similar surge of patients in our Emergency Departments. Some people who have only mild symptoms are evaluated in the ED, and subsequently sent home to continue treatment. Many others with severe COVID-19 are too sick to go home.

People are being admitted to the hospital and in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at an alarming rate. A rate—that if sustained or increased—is sure to max out our local health providers’ abilities to care for our sickest patients. When that occurs, tough decisions about treatment must be made. This puts additional stress on those who are sick, and their families.

With the numbers of people contracting COVID-19 spiking, our hospitals are reaching capacity. Because of high community spread outside the hospitals, more and more staff are contracting this disease or having to quarantine, further limiting our ability to treat patients.

We are working every day, 24 hours a day, to make sure every person from mild symptoms to the sickest of the sick are cared for with not only the best medicines available, but also with compassion and empathy. We deeply care about our community, and all of our patients. We genuinely want the best for each patient we encounter, for each life we touch, even if it’s only for a brief moment in time.

We can push back against COVID-19. Missoula and the surrounding areas are filled with individuals whose strength, together, can have a real effect on slowing the spread of the virus. Wear a mask when you are at work, shopping, at the gym, in church, essentially anytime you are with someone you do not live with. Stay home if you are sick. Choose to support local restaurants and shops by ordering take-out or curbside, or limiting the time you spend inside the store. Avoid large AND small group gatherings.

With the holidays coming up, please formulate a plan even within your extended family that follows these rules. Abide by your local health department guidelines and quarantine orders. These acts will not only protect individuals, but our whole community.

We understand that these sacrifices are difficult and have other unintended negative consequences. We struggle with these rules everyday ourselves, but know that the fastest way to return to normal is to continue following them. We want to provide emergency care to every member of our community who requires it but we need your help to serve you. The decisions we make now and in the holiday season determine our ability to care for you in the future.

As always, if you think you are having a medical emergency, please come to one of our Emergency Departments for treatment. We are here to care for you, always!

Casey Ambrose, MD; G. Judson Corn, MD; Timothy Donovan, MD; Kevin Eichhorn, MD; Aaron Feist, MD; Emilie Fowlkes, MD; Tiama Friend, MD; Daniel Gee, MD; Diana Griffith, MD; Jordan Guffin, MD; Kim Hill, MD; Josh Holexa, MD; Tyler Hurst, DO; Greg Kazemi, MD; Michael Kremkau, MD; Douglas Melzer, MD