ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Officials with two of New Mexico’s largest hospitals said Thursday they have yet to see a reprieve from the latest wave of patients needing care despite enacting crisis standards of care that allow them to focus solely on patients who need immediate medical attention.
Officials with Presbyterian Healthcare Services and the University of New Mexico Hospital said during a briefing that patient volumes remain high, with about one-fifth of hospital beds being taken up by COVID-19 patients while the majority are being treated for other illnesses.
The officials also stressed that they have not denied or rationed care over the past week.
They also acknowledged that health care staffing shortages were an issue in New Mexico long before the pandemic.
Dr. Jason Mitchell, Presbyterian’s chief medical officer, said he believed the crush on the health care system could be stopped if more people get vaccinated and get booster shots. He pointed to New Mexico’s slow pace of vaccination and changes in behavior that have resulted in more people gathering and dismissing public health practices.
“It’s kind of like watching a car wreck in slow motion and you can see the path,” he said, after being asked about the possibility of hospitals having to ration care. “I don’t know if it’s two months off, three months off or four months off but we definitely can’t stay on the same trajectory.”
State data shows that nearly 74% of New Mexicans are considered fully vaccinated right now, but state officials are expected to change that definition in the coming weeks to include booster shots. The hospital officials during the briefing also stressed the importance of boosters for those vaccinated early on.
Dr. Rohini McKee, UNM Hospital’s chief quality and safety officer, said it has yet to be determined what a thorough and effective immunization schedule for COVID-19 will be but that lessons are being learned as experts around the globe work to curb spread.