Delaying care adds to New Mexico hospital issues

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—New Mexico hospitals are at a breaking point.

"Nurses and our physicians and our frontline providers are pretty exhausted after all these months and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight,” said Dr. Rohini McKee, Chief Quality and Safety Officer at UNM Hospital in Albuquerque.

McKee said at UNM Hospital in particular, they are seeing patients with later stages of cancer, and more strokes, on top of new COVID patients.

And on the surgical side, the hospital is treating people who have ignored something like abdominal pain, or an infection, that has now worsened.

"All of which really speaks to the importance of not ignoring any symptoms you are experiencing and going in at regular intervals for your normal check-ups,” said Dr. McKee.

Experts said delaying care is causing problems for the patients, and the people who are now having to treat their serious conditions.

"If your pain or your disability is getting worse, and if the care, be it surgical or otherwise, is going to be more involved and therefore put you at a higher risk for complications, then that is not the type of care you should be postponing,” said Dr. McKee.

Dr. Mark Epstein, CEO of True Health New Mexico, stresses that especially people with chronic conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes need regular check-ups as well.

"Lacking that feedback that the steps they’re taking to take care of themselves are working, they may get off course in their treatment paths,” said Epstein.

Epstein also spoke about the fact that demand for health care, far outweighs the supply right now.

"It’s a combination of demand from COVID, which is coming up a bit or at least plateauing, and the demand for care based on it has been put off for a while,” said Epstein. “And that’s really impacting the hospitals the most. So it’s a little different but it’s very real."

If you can’t get an appointment with your normal doctor or specialist for a few weeks or longer, doctors said it’s important to go another route before it’s too late. They recommend urgent care, or another provider who you can see for preventative care.