Montana Democrats Share Photo of “Freezer Morgue” That’s Actually A Mobile MRI Unit, Hospital Says

In a scathing screed about Republicans to her followers and friends on Facebook, Democrat and Montana State Senator Ellie Boldman (SD-45) shared a photo of what she claimed was a mobile “freezer morgue” parked outside St. Peter’s Health hospital in Helena. The photo is actually of a mobile MRI trailer, hospital administration told Western Montana News.

St. Peter’s hospital administration said that they were trying to get ahead of rumors about the trailer being referred to as a “mobile morgue” and asked for the Senator’s name to provide to their public relations team for followup.

In the post, Boldman says,

“Here is the new freezer morgue parked outside our hospital in Helena. National Guards is on its way statewide. Don’t forget that the wisdom of your majority party in the legislature chose to put their political ideology over local medical experts, local needs, and common sense. Politics over people. Don’t forget. Don’t ever goddamn forget.

Senator Ellie Boldman. September 17, 2021.
Senator Ellie Boldman Facebook post. September 17, 2021.

The State Senator is referring to legislation (HB 121 and HB 230) passed by Republicans in the most recent session that limits the duration and authority of the Governor to declare emergency powers, curtails local health departments ability to enforce emergency orders, protects businesses from health department retaliation, protects individuals ability to attend church services, and requires oversight approval of health board mandates.

At the time of publishing, Boldman’s post was still up and had been shared 500+ times with 300+ reactions and 26 comments. After this story was published, Boldman took down the misleading post at approximately 3 PM, but issued no apology or comment. We have asked the State Senator for comment and if she plans to apologize.

Helena City Commissioner Emily Dean.

Helena City Commissioner Emily Dean also posted the trailer structure on her official page telling Helena residents, “a freezer trailer is parked at the hospital now that the morgue has reached capacity.” We asked Commissioner Dean where she heard that the morgue was at capacity and where she heard that the trailer was a “freezer trailer.” We will update readers when we hear back.

Lewis & Clark Coroner’s Office expressed frustration about the rumors that the morgue was full telling Western Montana News that their 12-person morgue is not full and has never been full since the beginning of the pandemic. The coroners office also shared that St. Peter’s 3-person morgue is always full even when there was no COVID-19 pandemic.

Helena City Commissioner Emily Dean Facebook post. September 18, 2021.

Former Lieutenant Governor of Montana, Mike Cooney, also shared the “freezer” story recording a video outside of the structure last week on Twitter. Cooney called the structure a “freedom freezer” and urged Montanan’s to “take it seriously” and to get vaccinated.

After publishing this story, Mike Cooney’s son, Ryan Cooney, a Helena-area public school teacher, told Western Montana News that the story was “old news” and pointed to a tweet from Mike Cooney sent on October 1st where the former Lt Governor admitted that the trailer was not a morgue trailer. Despite the coroners office stating that their morgue has never been full since the beginning of the pandemic, Cooney doubled-down on his claim that morgue capacity was stretched. “I don’t care if it’s a horse trailer,” Cooney tweeted. “The fact remains: Inaction and apathy are killing people and the morgues are filling up.”

Governor Greg Gianforte made available National Guard resources to Montana hospitals that are at reduced capacity due to staffing shortages. On September 15th, St. Peter’s Health made a request for 10 National Guard members. The hospital’s request was fulfilled on September 24th, according to a press release from Governor Gianforte’s office.

According to Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services weekly hospital capacity reports, St. Peter’s Health hospital had 133 beds with 7 COVID patients in October of 2020 and as of September 20th, now has only 79 beds with 9 total COVID patients. Over the course of the year, the hospital has lost over 50 beds.

Montana DPHHS Hospital Capacity Report 10/7/2020 and 9/20/2021

The hospital capacity reports indicate there is no surge or crisis of COVID-19 cases at St. Peter’s Health hospital, but a crisis of resources for patients with any ailment.

Hat tip to Montanan’s for Vaccine Choice Telegram.

UPDATE (09/27/2021, 12:06 PM): The story has been updated to reflect that former Lieutenant Governor Mike Cooney and Helena City Commissioner Emily Dean also posted about the trailer referring to the structure as a “freezer.”

UPDATE (09/27/2021, 3:12 PM): Senator Ellie Hill Boldman has taken down the misleading post but has not responded with answers to questions about where she heard that the structure was a “freezer morgue” and has not issued an apology.

UPDATE (09/28/2021, 10:20 AM): Senator Ellie Hill Boldman responded to Western Montana News saying that she had heard about the possibility of a “freezer morgue” from hospital staff in a local newspaper article published September 16th. After reading the article, the Senator asserted that the mobile MRI unit outside the hospital was actually a “freezer morgue” to her 800+ Facebook friends and followers in a post on September 17th. The Senator did not share an apology.

UPDATE (12/30/2021): The story was updated to reflect that after publishing, former Lieutenant Governor Mike Cooney shared a statement in an October 1st tweet admitting that the trailer was “not a morgue trailer.”