New Mexico hospitals could hit 'crisis mode' if COVID-19 spread isn't slowed | KOB 4

New Mexico hospitals could hit 'crisis mode' if COVID-19 spread isn't slowed

New Mexico hospitals could hit 'crisis mode' if COVID-19 spread isn't slowed

Tessa Mentus
Updated: November 23, 2020 10:21 PM
Created: November 23, 2020 04:48 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- New Mexico's hospital capacity is stretched thin.

The state's seven major hospital typically have 290 adult intensive care unit (ICU) beds. Those are currently full with people who have varying illnesses, according to the Department of Health.

The hospitals currently are in 'contingency mode,' which allows for more ICU space. They are diverting beds from other areas of the hospital for critical patients.

If the spike in hospitalizations continues, hospitals will go into 'crisis mode,' which would make more than 600 ICU beds available.

"It does require some innovative approaches to providing care quickly to intensive care level patients, whether it be doubling up in the intensive care unit itself, or whether it's establishing de facto intensive care units in places that can support that care of those patients; in peri operative places, or in other operative spaces like a GI laboratory where endoscopies are performed. Those are some of the overflow locations that can be used and are typically part of the plans," said Dr. Jeff Salvon-Harman of Presbyterian said.

During 'crisis mode,' it's not just logistics and spacing, the level of care people receive would be impacted.

Right now, they can create a recovery plan based on what a patient specifically needs. That would not longer be manageable when they are in 'crisis mode,' doctors say. 

"You get to a point where you focus on the good of a population, strategies of what can do the most good for the most people, rather than focusing on an individual," said Dr. Rohini McKee of UNM Hospital. "That's sort of the definition of crisis level standards of care – which is sort of one step away from where, I believe, all of our health systems are at this point in time."

'Crisis mode' isn't just more dangerous for patients, it will also have a negative impact on health care workers. 

"We might resort to having COVID-positive health care staff or asymptomatic providing care either to COVID patients or in the worst of crises, patients who are not infected with COVID," Dr. Salvon-Harman said.

State health and hospital leaders are trying to alleviate the stress on health care workers. They have recruited traveling nurses to help care for patients.

Health officials say canceling family gatherings for Thanksgiving will be key to slowing the spread of COVID-19. 

They note that when people take the pandemic seriously, they can help flatten the curve. 

Dr. Salvon-Harman said they are already seeing a positive impact from the state's two-week 'reset.'

"In our Presbyterian data, we calculate rate of positive tests every day that we run in our hospitals and our drive-thru testing site, and we calculate what's called a 'five-day rolling average,' so it smooths out those up and downs from one day to the next, and what we've seen over the past week is that five-day average is beginning to decrease," he said. "It's not to low levels, but it has turned downward, which I attribute to, at this point, our recent public health order improvement."


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