ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico hit a huge milestone over the weekend. On Sunday, there were no new COVID-related deaths for the first time since October. The state’s hospital leaders say they’re also seeing progress in patients that they are treating.
The number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 is down considerably. However, many hospitals in the state say they’re still at or beyond capacity as people come in for other health needs — likely put off before because of the pandemic.
“Our hospital still remains beyond our licensed capacity, at least, for adults,” said Dr. David Pitcher, Executive Physician of University of New Mexico Health System. “That’s just a reflection of a lot of pent-up demand for healthcare services that is not COVID related that we’re still managing and catching up on the backlog.”
Between UNM Hospital and Sandoval Regional Medical Center, they’re seeing fewer than 20 people in the entire system with COVID, and about half of them are ventilated. Presbyterian has around 31 people with COVID across 10 hospitals, and while they’re at 100% of ICU capacity, only five patients are on ventilators. For the last couple of weeks, Lovelace is seeing around 6 to 8 people in their four hospitals across the state. CHRISTUS St. Vincent in Santa Fe says they’re down to six COVID patients and no one on a ventilator or in the ICU, something they say is the result of a steady drop.
However, hospital leadership says they are looking into the growing numbers of long-haul COVID sufferers with severe fatigue or neurological or cognitive issues. They believe as more studies are done, there will be clinics to help with these issues, specifically.
“I think we’re seeing all across the country this is an area you’ll see a lot of growth in specialized clinics to address these issues,” said Dr. David Gonzales, Chief Medical Officer of CHRISTUS St. Vincent Regional Medical Center. “This is a brand new area that we don’t know a lot about at present, but I’m sure we’ll be learning a lot as time goes on.”
Lovelace says they’re also working on a post-COVID system of referrals for patients, reporting long-term side effects within different departments like cardiology, pulmonary, and neurology. However, they say it will be a challenge moving forward, as they navigate how to care for these folks.
Doctors say they are concerned about how ongoing spring break vacations and anti-mask rallies around the state could impact the spread of the virus and hospitalizations. They say it’s important to continue social distancing and mask-wearing — even with the vaccine more prevalent — but they’re prepared for a surge if it happens.