Hospitals across New Mexico continue to get battered by viruses as pediatric units are well above operating capacity - Albuquerque Journal

Hospitals across New Mexico continue to get battered by viruses as pediatric units are well above operating capacity

UNM Hospital RN Alisha Sanchez, left, and Dr. Anna Duran last month go over the chart of a young patient affected by the RSV surge, which is having an impact on hospitals. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

At the University of New Mexico Children’s Hospital ICU on Thursday, there were 22 patients in a unit licensed for 20 beds, and 90% of the kids were intubated or using a breathing tube as they battled respiratory viruses, according to hospital officials.

Throughout New Mexico, 14.3% of hospital patients are fighting an influenza-like illness as the state continues to see a surge of viruses. Those viruses include COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.

That’s a much bigger share of cases than normal, according to the Department of Health. Usually, about 3.9% of patients have an influenza-like illness.

Health officials on Thursday gave an update on COVID and other viruses that are spreading throughout the state. Pediatric units, in particular, are reporting that they are well above their operating capacity because of a surge in sick children.

“We are seeing this in younger populations, including infants,” said Dr. Anna Duran, associate chief medical officer of the UNM Children’s Hospital. “Many children are needing a higher level of care, and that includes needing high-flow oxygen.”

She said young patients with RSV are driving the surge in pediatric units. The majority of those children are 4 or younger. But the hospital is also treating children for flu and COVID, and some are hospitalized with multiple viruses, she said.

At any given time, she said, about 100 adults and 10 to 20 children at UNMH are waiting for a bed.

In addition to the RSV cases filling children’s hospitals, the state saw an increase in COVID cases this week.

On Thursday, New Mexico reported seven more COVID-related deaths, pushing the toll to 8,736 since the start of the pandemic, which was a little more than 1,000 days ago.

The state reported 4,489 new cases the week ending Dec. 5. That was about a 28% increase from the week before, when the state reported 3,499 cases.

A total of 161 people with COVID were admitted to hospitals in New Mexico during the week ending Dec. 5, which was about a 6.6% increase over the week before.

Duran urged parents and patients to seek out the appropriate level of care so patients don’t further overcrowd emergency rooms with illnesses that could be treated elsewhere. The different options are an emergency room, urgent care, primary care or care at home.

“We want you to come to the emergency room if you need emergency care,” Duran said. “But, please be aware that your wait times may be very long depending on what is wrong with you.”

Last week, amid a rising number of pediatric patients, Dr. David Scrase, acting health secretary, issued a public health order that returned hospitals to the “hub-and-spoke” model of patient triage, which was used throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The order said the number of respiratory viruses, a shortage of hospital staff and a scarcity of certain types of medical equipment made it necessary for hospitals to return to that model, which allows hospitals to more easily transfer patients based on the availability of resources.

Duran said many of the sickest children from around the state have been transferred to Albuquerque to be treated at UNMH or Presbyterian hospitals. She said patients in other parts of the state are treating less sick children.

“We sort of turn the whole state into one giant hospital and we’re transferring people from, like the second-floor general medical bed at San Juan Regional Medical Center, down to an ICU in Las Cruces. That’s not our preferred course of action. But we have had to come together to consolidate, particularly pediatric resources, right now,” Scrase said of the model. “And I’m predicting it will happen with adults in the next couple of weeks, as well.”

To help slow the spread of the viruses, the health officials urged people to stay up to date on vaccines, consider wearing a mask in some settings, and for children and adults to stay home if sick.

“Don’t go to work sick. We need to have a new society,” Scrase said. “I’m one of those people who has taken (very few) sick days in my whole career. It’s sort of a badge-of-honor to come to work miserable. We need to obliterate that way of thinking. … Not going to work sick is probably one of the most important interventions that everyone in the workplace can make to minimize transmission.”

Home » ABQnews Seeker » Hospitals across New Mexico continue to get battered by viruses as pediatric units are well above operating capacity

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages


Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
Thousands of households will have to pay more for ...
ABQnews Seeker
The Bernalillo County Solid Waste Program ... The Bernalillo County Solid Waste Program is implementing a 6% rate increase for trash and recycling for residents in the unincorporated areas of the ...
New Mexico United bumps up assistant to take over ...
ABQnews Seeker
Masaki "Mac" Hemmi, New Mexico United's ... Masaki "Mac" Hemmi, New Mexico United's first assistant coach, ran Monday's training session and will coach the team for Saturday's match at Tampa Bay ...
State agency extends contracts for Medicaid providers amid uncertainty ...
ABQnews Seeker
The move by the New Mexico ... The move by the New Mexico Human Services Department to extend the existing contracts through June 2024 - instead of the end of this ...
FBI biker gang expert warns of more violence in ...
ABQnews Seeker
The biker gang expert's testimony came ... The biker gang expert's testimony came during a pretrial detention hearing for one of two alleged Bandidos arrested after the Red River shootings. After ...
Body camera footage shows short foot chase before police ...
ABQnews Seeker
Albuquerque police on Monday released on-body ... Albuquerque police on Monday released on-body camera footage and additional information about a May 10 shooting.
Fungal disease threatens bats in New Mexico
ABQnews Seeker
White nose syndrome has devastated some ... White nose syndrome has devastated some bat populations in North America. Now it’s been detected in New Mexico.
From the Angels: What it takes to scale a ...
ABQnews Seeker
As supporters of New Mexico Angels ... As supporters of New Mexico Angels and the start-up economy, the keys to grow a start-up are the same skills any business needs to ...
Raising Cane’s to open second Albuquerque location
ABQnews Seeker
Twenty customers will get free Raising ... Twenty customers will get free Raising Cane's for a year when the chicken chain opens its second Albuquerque location on Wyoming Boulevard Tuesday.
Lawmakers, judiciary to examine how New Mexico picks judges
ABQnews Seeker
New Mexico has an unusual, hybrid ... New Mexico has an unusual, hybrid system for selecting judges. A new commission is evaluating whether to recommend changes.