Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – With concerns swirling about New Mexico hospitals’ ability to absorb a surge of novel coronavirus cases, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has asked the federal Department of Defense to station a 248-bed U.S. Army hospital in Albuquerque.
The governor made the request this week in a letter to U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, saying that setting up a U.S. combat support hospital in the state’s largest city would enhance the state’s treatment capacity.
“This (facility) is urgently needed to support the state of New Mexico’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which threatens to overwhelm our existing medical treatment facilities and resources by early April,” Lujan Grisham wrote in her letter.
She also asked that the U.S. Army hospital be in place by April 10, or as soon after that date as possible.
Along with other governors, Lujan Grisham has been in regular contact with the White House as the coronavirus outbreak has intensified and cited a federal law that allows agencies to provide disaster assistance in her request this week.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has steadily increased in New Mexico – and nationwide – over the last two weeks. There are currently 136 confirmed cases statewide, after 24 additional positive tests were announced Thursday.
Only 13 coronavirus patients are currently hospitalized in New Mexico, state hospital officials have said the state’s health care system will be overwhelmed if a surge in cases can’t be mitigated.
New Mexico has fewer hospital beds per capita than the national average, with 1.8 hospital beds per 1,000 people. The national average is about 2.4 beds per 1,000 people, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
If the request for the U.S. Army hospital is approved, Lujan Grisham said its operations would be directed by New Mexico National Guard Brig. Gen. Michele LaMontagne.