New Mexico hospitals struggle to find beds, staff amid rising COVID hospitalizations | KOB 4

New Mexico hospitals struggle to find beds, staff amid rising COVID hospitalizations

Tommy Lopez
Updated: November 29, 2020 10:29 PM
Created: November 29, 2020 09:27 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Many New Mexico hospitals are at or near capacity as the number of COVID-19 patients, as well as the demand for more health care workers, continues to rise.

More COVID patients are hospitalized right now than ever before in New Mexico’s struggle with the pandemic, as the state’s Department of Health announced the number rose to 919 on Sunday.

New Mexico hospitals struggle to find beds, staff amid rising COVID hospitalizations | New Mexico hospitals struggle to find beds, staff amid rising COVID hospitalizations |

The graph below shows the rise over the last month, which started with fewer than 400 people hospitalized with the virus. The number has since grown by more than 550 and has doubled in just more than two weeks. Seventy-three more COVID-19 patients are hospitalized now compared to one week ago.

State health leaders continue to say that, in many ways, the state is very near its capacity to care for these patients, and there are plans in place for hospitals to continue to expand how many patients they can treat.

Many state health officials were unable to answer KOB 4’s questions about capacity over the holiday weekend, but the Department of Health’s website shows three tiers for intensive care unit capacity, and when hospitals would sacrifice certain resources to try and add more critical care beds.

KOB 4 asked large hospital systems about capacity and what tier they're in right now. A Presbyterian Healthcare Services spokesperson said the system is one patient short of the baseline capacity listed on the state's website. Adding:

“Presbyterian hospitals across the state have reached or exceeded their standard intensive care unit bed capacity frequently in recent weeks, and this trend is expected to continue in response to surging case counts across New Mexico. Presbyterian has activated contingency plans that allow us to care for additional patients during this pandemic.”

Lovelace Chief Medical Officer Dr. Vesta Sandoval said in a statement:

“Our care teams are continuously evaluating capacity to ensure ongoing access to care for the communities we serve. Currently, an average of 60 percent of our in-patient hospitalizations are non-COVID. Our System has a surge plan in place and are reviewing it for lessons learned and best practices.”

More may become clear on Monday afternoon when state leaders, including Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase, give another COVID update.

Recruiting more workers is one strategy the state has. A retired paramedic in New Mexico says he can help, and he's surprised he hasn't been asked to go back to work.

The paramedic, who wished to remain anonymous, claims he's worked in hospitals for more than a decade. A few months ago, he got re-certified, and he says the state has all his contact information— but he hasn't heard from anyone.

“I was just surprised that the state of New Mexico now, in a time of need, at least hasn't reached out to me,” he said.

His certification would allow him to care for COVID patients in a hospital and administer COVID tests— the exact kind of health care worker our state health leaders say they need. He says he would consider any offer in order to help.

He believes around 60 other EMTs and paramedics were getting re-certified when he did.

“A lot of them are volunteers. Maybe they're laid off right now from their normal job in these smaller communities, and you could put them back to work,” he said.

KOB 4 will also ask state leaders more questions Monday about the search to increase staffing. 

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