Updated: October 19, 2020 03:09 PM
Created: October 18, 2020 09:45 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — As COVID hospitalizations continue to rise in New Mexico, experts said they’re concerned over another troubling trend: hospital staff shortages.
So far, hospitals in the state still have enough beds for COVID patients. State officials reported that 171 people in New Mexico are currently hospitalized for the virus.
"We've already seen it grow— the number of patients, and we're anticipating seeing even more growth in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Davis Scrase, cabinet secretary of the New Mexico Human Services Department
Experts said there’s about a two-week delay between when cases spike and when hospitals start getting an influx of patients. There are 290 beds available statewide. Another 150 can be added if necessary, but those additional beds could compromise other services due to a shortage of medical staff.
“What I'm told by the leaders of the university, Presbyterian, Lovelace, St. Vincent is that they really are facing staffing challenges right now,” Dr. Srase said.
Dr. Scrase said nursing staff levels dropped in late summer, but did not specify by how much.
"We all know that almost 1,000 New Mexicans have died, and most of them have died on the watch of these what I would call health care heroes in intensive care units, hospital floors that are taking care of these people— so, that takes a toll,” he said.
Dr. Scrase said he does not want to use field hospitals or the old Lovelace Hospital on Gibson because of staffing difficulties.
Amid the challenges at hospitals, Dr. Scrase also said New Mexico is seeing a record number of new cases across all age groups
"That's particularly worrisome because it's the 50 and older group that has a much higher hospitalization rate, and that's where pressure comes in on hospital beds, ICU beds and staffing,” he said.
Dr. Scrase said New Mexicans need to ramp up their prevention efforts to beat the virus. He also reiterated that gatherings—especially family gatherings held inside with no masks—are particularly risky.
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