UNMH receives federal assistance amid surge in pediatric patients

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. –  A federal team is coming to Albuquerque to help with a surge in sick children as the University of New Mexico Hospital is over capacity during this “tripledemic.”

What started as a surge of RSV has now made its way into a tripledemic of COVID-19, flu, and the respiratory virus. UNMH is still seeing an overflow in their pediatric centers and the rest of the hospital too.

Now, for the next two weeks, doctors and nurses in the hospital will have a few more hands on deck to help out.

“Bringing in asking for assistance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is just one piece of the puzzle of how we’re trying to manage a really complex problem,” said Chris Ramirez, a UNMH spokesperson. 

A 14-member federal team was deployed by the Department of Health to help the UNMH staff in many ways. 

“They have been working really long hours, and so this team can come in and create an opportunity for a lot of our existing staff to just take a little breather for the next few weeks,” said Ramirez. 

“Our goal is to be able to help to alleviate a lot of the stress that has been placed on them by the higher percentages, especially with this tridemic,” said Paul Decerbo, a DMAT team commander. 

The team is made up of different people from the medical field.

“We come with respiratory therapists, paramedics, nurses, who are all coming from a pediatric background back in their civilian jobs. They’ve been activated federally,” said Decerbo. 

And they come from all over the country.

“I personally am from Rhode Island. We have team members from California, from Alabama, from New Hampshire,” Decerbo said. 

So what was the tip of the iceberg for UNMH to request such help?

“We’ve been sounding the alarms to our federal delegation and to the New Mexico State Department of Health, and to the governor’s office for quite some time that we had this surge in pediatric patients,” said Ramirez. 

This team will help UNMH employees in different shapes and forms for the next two weeks. After that, UNMH will be reevaluated according to their needs. 

“After our two weeks are up here at the hospital, they’ll repeat a needs assessment to see what is needed as far as resources,” said Decerbo.  

Until then, UNMH is still using their triage set up outside as they continue to see capacity reach its limits.