Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Albuquerque hospitals are setting crisis standards for care at an “unprecedented” time

The current level of activity is “unsustainable,” said a hospital official.

November 11, 2021, 11:23 p.m.

Read for 5 minutes

The two largest hospital systems in Albuquerque, New Mexico, have activated crisis management standards due to “unprecedented levels” of activity during the pandemic, hospital officials said Thursday.

University of New Mexico health system executives and Presbyterian Health Services said in a joint news conference that they have transitioned to crisis standards of care in their Albuquerque subway hospitals. The move comes as hospitals are stretched to their limits in terms of space and staff due to increasing COVID-19 hospital admissions and high numbers of patients with acute illness, officials said.

“Currently at UNM we are working at around 140% of our normal operating capacity today and I’ve had moments when we approached 150%. This is truly an unsustainable and unprecedented level of activity that we have achieved.” to create, “Dr. Michael Richards, senior vice president of clinical affairs for the UNM Health System, told reporters.

The decision means non-essential medical procedures could be delayed for up to 90 days and patients may need to be treated at a different regional hospital or possibly outside of the state, hospital officials said.

Albuquerque Ambulance EMTs roll a patient on a stretcher in front of the Presbyterian Hospital near downtown Albuquerque, NM, Nov. 9, 2020.

“We don’t examine or refuse care,” said Dr. Jason Mitchell, Chief Medical and Clinical Transformation Officer at Presbyterian Healthcare Services. “The decision could be, we don’t have beds in our hospitals – who else can take this patient in?”

The announcement comes less than a month after the state’s Department of Health announced a new public health ordinance that will allow healthcare facilities to move to emergency care standards amid a delta surge and shortage of hospital staff. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the state has an average of more than 1,450 daily cases and nearly 530 hospitalizations, up from fewer than 700 daily cases and 400 hospitalizations in early October.

The regulation creates a “more standardized and fairer process” for determining patient priority when resources are limited. The crisis management standards were last implemented in the state just under a year ago, in December 2020.

PHOTO: An exterior view shows the emergency entrance of the University of New Mexico Hospital on October 22, 2021 in Albuquerque, NM

An exterior view shows the emergency entrance of the University of New Mexico Hospital on October 22, 2021 in Albuquerque, NM

Last week, the San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington, New Mexico became the first hospital to declare crisis standards for care under the latest ordinance. State health officials said Wednesday they were in contact with “multiple” hospital systems in New Mexico that are also considering the same thing.

“Our hospital teams are really overwhelmed and we see a lot more patients than they thought possible,” said Dr. David Scrase, Acting Cabinet Secretary for the state Department of Health during a news conference on Wednesday. “That means if anyone in the audience at this press conference is having a heart attack, there’s a good chance we don’t have an ICU bed for that person here in New Mexico.”

Intensive care unit capacity dropped into single digits for the first time during the pandemic, Scrase said, as almost every county in the state has high transmission rates.

“Not very good news on hospital stays,” he said, urging people to get vaccinated and boostered and follow safe COVID-19 practices. “This is a really serious time.”

Comments are closed.