New Mexico hospitals nearing 'tipping point' as COVID-19 cases surge | KOB 4

New Mexico hospitals nearing 'tipping point' as COVID-19 cases surge

Brittany Costello
Updated: October 16, 2020 06:20 PM
Created: October 16, 2020 04:46 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- Capacity at New Mexico hospitals is a growing concerns as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. 

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Thursday hospitalizations are up 74% in October. 

“We still have a chance to turn this around we are not past the tipping point,” said Dr. Jason Mitchell, chief medical officer for Presbyterian Healthcare Services. “But I will tell you, I think the tipping point is in the next 10 to 14 days. That’s all we have as a community not to move into something that’s catastrophic.”

Mitchell said COVID-related admission at Presbyterian have increased dramatically over the last few weeks. As of Friday, they were caring for 52 COVID patients within the Presbyterian Healthcare system.

“From a ventilator standpoint, we do feel comfortable,” said Dr. Mitchell. “We have the ventilators we will need, that will probably not be the limiting factor. Unfortunately, with the way this is going, we may not have the doctors, nurses, or rooms, even for these patients.”

It’s a similar story at UNM Hospital. The facility has reached its capacity, not primarily because of COVID-19 but other medical needs.

“UNM hospital has been running at full capacity for at least two to three months,” said Dr. David Pitcher, executive physician for UNM Health System and Senior Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs. “Most of that has been related to delayed demand for care as a result of the initial COVID wave. It’s not been so much demand for COVID-related illness admissions.”

As of Friday, COVID-positive patients represented less than 10% of overall patient cases. Dr. David Pitcher said Friday there are fewer than 10 COVID-positive patients on ventilators. However, since the hospital is already at capacity, they are starting to house patients is surge-capacity areas.

“In the last week or so, and we’re paying very close attention to this, we’re also seeing numbers increase in older ages. How that ends up translating into demand for hospital beds and ventilators remains to be seen but we are paying very close attention to that,” said Dr. Pitcher.

Officials with Lovelace Health System did not provide KOB 4 with the amount of COVID-positive patients being treated. However, a spokesperson said, like UNM and Presbyterian, they have a surge plan in place.

“While we at Lovelace continue to see increased transfers from across the state, we have capacity in our hospitals and are coordinating efforts across our System to ensure we properly manage patient flow and access. Our System has a surge plan in place and are reviewing it for lessons learned and best practices. We monitor PPE, bed availability, pharmaceuticals, respiratory supplies and other items daily. 

Lovelace and Presbyterian are reviewing current visitor guidelines, and could release revisions next week. UNM will now only allow visitors under special circumstances.

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