Hospitals brace for flood of COVID patients - Albuquerque Journal

Hospitals brace for flood of COVID patients

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Officials at local hospitals said Thursday they are well above capacity and expecting a greater influx of COVID-19 patients to flood their hospitals in the coming weeks.

The warning came the same day the state reported 1,790 new cases, 23 more deaths and 599 hospitalized COVID patients.

Dr. Jason Mitchell, the chief medical officer for Presbyterian Healthcare Services, said that modeling suggests cases will continue to rise and there will be about 700 people in New Mexico hospitalized with COVID-19 in two weeks. Some of those patients will be treated at University of New Mexico Hospital and Presbyterian Healthcare Services hospitals in the Albuquerque area, which have already declared that they are operating with crisis standards of care. The declaration gives the hospitals the ability to increase patient capacity, the flexibility to transfer patients in and out of the state and, ultimately if conditions continue to worsen, to ration care.

New Mexico hasn’t had more than 700 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 since mid-January, according to Department of Health data. “You’ve got this car wreck or train wreck happening in slow motion,” Mitchell said. “And from a community standpoint, something’s going to have to change. And we need to start pulling those levers as a community pretty quickly.”

Officials with Presbyterian and UNM hospitals gave the briefing on conditions inside their facilities, one week after they each activated their crisis standards at their hospitals in the Albuquerque metro area.

Dr. Rohini McKee, UNMH’s chief quality and safety officer, said the patient load isn’t letting up. UNMH was operating at about 140% of its normal operating capacity on Thursday. Both ICU and other types of beds were stretched beyond their normal limits. She said patients have been doubled up in ICU rooms, which is unusual, and other patients are being treated in areas not normally used for care.

She said the two major health systems are not currently having to ration care. But she said UNMH created what is called a “triage board” to help make such decisions should the need arise.

“I don’t know when it’s going to happen. But if something doesn’t change, we run a high risk as a state of truly running out of resources,” Mitchell said.

The physicians stressed that the best way to end the pandemic is for the state to increase its vaccination rate. They urged people who haven’t yet done so to talk to a health care professional about the vaccine.

Nearly 74% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have been fully vaccinated against the disease, according to the DOH’s website. The vaccination rate for children age 12 to 17 is 55.2%, according to the website. Younger children only recently were approved to get the shots.

It’s not just COVID-19 patients who are stressing the state’s health care system. Mitchell said 20% of Presbyterian patients are coronavirus patients, and about 87% of those patients are unvaccinated.

One of the reasons for the increase in patients is that some people put off care during the initial phase of the pandemic and they now have complications from untreated illnesses, McKee said.

“If we had everybody in New Mexico get vaccinated, in six weeks, seven weeks, this would be over,” Mitchell said.

Of the new virus cases reported Thursday, Bernalillo County had the most new cases with 469. Those who died ranged in age from an Otero County woman in her 20s to several adults in their 80s.

There have now been 5,238 New Mexicans whose deaths are related to COVID-19, according to the Health Department.

The seven-day test positivity rate in the state is at 12.3%.

Testing company Curative on Thursday announced that it was reopening a site at Balloon Fiesta Park. The company said in a news release that walk-up testing would be available as well as tests by appointment. There were slots available beginning Friday morning at 7 a.m. through 4 p.m., according to Curative’s website.

Also on Thursday, two school districts announced that they were temporarily going back to remote learning.

Santa Fe Public Schools announced that it would be going back to remote learning until Nov. 29 to slow the spread of the disease. Los Lunas Schools also is going to remote learning next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

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