SJRMC relies on federal help amid COVID surge

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FARMINGTON, N.M. – The San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington was one of the first hospitals to declare crisis standards of care – and the first to receive help from federal agencies.

The pandemic has not been easy on hospitals. But SJRMC hospital officials say right now the COVID numbers are manageable.

“Several weeks ago maybe a little bit more than a month ago, we had nearly 100 COVID patients in the hospital and right now we’re down to the low 40s,” said Dr. Robert Underwood, SJRMC chief medical officer

But cases are continuing to rise in the community because of the omicron variant. Hospital officials say they are closely monitoring omicron infections.

“We have not yet seen an exponential rise in our inpatient volume like we are seeing in the community, but we are keeping a very close eye on that. As you have heard, around the rest of the country as that number continues to go up, inpatient numbers will continue to go up,” said Underwood.

The hospital has faced a lack of resources and staffing shortages due to the pandemic. But late last year, they received some much-needed help from federal agencies.

“This has been going on for two years, it has been a challenge and an endurance effort for everybody. But the morale of outside help has brought to our team and our hospital has been really great,” Underwood said.

Military medical personnel from the Department of Defense and Department of the Navy are among the teams there to help. Back in December, KOB 4 spoke to one of these teams.

“Our mission here is really to support the people in New Mexico, help with the COVID response and supplemental staffing so that they’re not so worked,” said Haley Ehrhardt, a registered nurse in the U.S. Navy.

A Navy team is still on-site helping the hospital and is expected to stay through early February. Hospital officials say they are looking into an expansion from that team or another.