UNM Hospital seeing surge of patients who delayed care

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- Hospitals are facing a new challenge. They are treating more patients who delayed care during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

University of New Mexico Hospital is at 125% capacity, but only about 3% are patients with COVID-19.

"Now we are trying to catch up and get all of those people who delayed care, getting them the surgeries and other care that they need," said Dr. Steve McLaughlin, chair of UNM Hospital’s Health Emergency Medicine Department.

McLaughlin said many patients delayed care because their doctors told them to, but he said others were worried about the risk of contracting COVID-19.

However, he is seeing a change in behavior.

"As people are getting vaccinated, and the state is doing a wonderful job with that, people are now coming into the doctor, and coming into the hospital, with the things that they, maybe, ignored during the pandemic," he said.

In response, UNM Hospital is creating extra hospital capacity, and opening up clinic spots.

"Every single day, looking at really each patient in the hospital and how we can get them through the hospital as safely and quickly as possible, so we can get that next person in," Mclaughlin said.

Mclaughlin believes hospital capacity issues hit New Mexico harder than other states because of the rural and underserved areas.

However, while hospitalizations remain an area of concern, Presbyterian and Lovelace report their systems are running below capacity.