This story is a staff report from The Paper.


On Monday, the New Mexico Department of Health announced the enactment of Crisis Standards of Care (CSC) for the state’s health care system, which will allow hospitals to ration healthcare if needed due to the strain the COVID pandemic has placed on the healthcare system.

The NMDOH says the COVID-19 pandemic has placed an enormous, ongoing, and unsustainable strain on the state’s health care system. In particular, the volume of COVID-19 patients – almost all of whom are unvaccinated – has exacerbated existing staffing and other resource shortages. 

What Does Crisis Standards of Care Mean For Patients and Providers?

Hospitals and providers are already faced with difficult choices about who gets care. Now, under CSC, facilities statewide will use a more standardized procedure for making those decisions. Before a facility reaches this point, they must temporarily suspend non-medically-necessary procedures.

If hospitals need to move into CSC, the state will also extend limited legal liability coverage to providers who move to higher levels of care. NMDOH will offer a credentialing system for these providers in the coming days. “Because of COVID, New Mexico hospitals and health care facilities have carried an unmanageable burden. The state is offering clarity and support as providers seek to make difficult choices about how to allocate scarce – and precious – health care resources. The goals, as always, remain the same: to save as many New Mexican lives as possible, and to help sustain the health care providers who have sustained our communities throughout this entire pandemic,” said DOH Acting Secretary David R. Scrase, M.D. 

Dr. Scrase also emphasized that while CSC modifies hospital and health care facility procedures, patients should still seek the care they need. “If you’re sick or think you might be, please, call your doctor,” said Dr. Scrase.

Additional Support For The Health Care System

Prior to enacting CSC, the State made a range of other efforts to mitigate staff shortages across New Mexico, including connecting hospitals with FEMA for additional staffing resources, contracting with nurses at the state level, and expanding mAbs treatments via FEMA support. Additional measures are planned.

The state last invoked crisis standards of care in December—an order health officials said allowed the rationing of health care if the demand for ventilators or other care exceeds the supply. As of Monday, the DOH reported over 1,800 new positive cases and 300 hospitalizations.