Two years later: The pandemic’s impact on UNMH

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Hospital leaders say it’s hard to be too optimistic about COVID-19, because they remember how everyone was feeling last summer.

"We are cautiously optimistic and continue to be prepared to deal with whatever happens with COVID," said Irene Agostini, the chief medical officer for UNM Hospitals. "It is hard for those of us in health care to fall ‘out of the woods,’ we’ve been here before."

One year ago – similar to now – case counts and hospitalizations were on a downward trend. KOB 4 asked if the worst is behind us.

"I think that we are not likely to get to the point where we stretch the system to that extent," said UNMH Dr. Jason McKee. "However, the one unknown that still remains are the variants."

Both delta and omicron stressed the health care system. The state no longer had mobile morgues, but instead military health care personnel were called in to New Mexico hospitals to help with overworked and exhausted workers.

"We are very careful to keep our nursing ratios reasonable, so we don’t stress out our nurses more," Agostini said.

The Department of Defense just pulled their personnel out of UNMH this week. The hospital is hoping to get closer to a more managable number of patients – as many work on deciding what their own "new normal" looks like.

"For many people who are juggling numerous issues, and now having to figure out, like, is it safe to go back to normaly life? And we’re not quite – I think many of us are not quite sure about that," Agostini said.

UNMH officials said before the pandemic, they were used to operating at around 100% capacity. They were forced to operate at around 150% capacity as COVID-19 spread, and now they’re at around 120% capacity while hoping for better days ahead.