ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – COVID-19 hospitalizations may be down across the state, but local hospitals say now is not the time to let up COVID-safety efforts. In fact, they’re asking the public to be extra careful.
COVID-19 hospitalizations are down by almost a hundred people from this time last week. However, many local hospitals are still at or above capacity from other seasonal illnesses and they’re afraid of what may happen with another COVID surge. “We’re still well above capacity,” said Dr. Rohini McKee with the University of New Mexico Health. “What we’re seeing is a lot of very ill patients with other conditions which tend to get worse at this time of the year that are coming in.”
“Even though COVID numbers have come down currently, we certainly can’t afford for them to go back up,” said Dr. Vesta Sandoval with Lovelace Medical Center. “Our hospitals are still full, even though it’s not COVID patients, per say, and we just cannot afford another surge or increase in cases.”
Some of those seasonal conditions include respiratory illness, as well as cardiac and gastrointestinal disease. However, one thing they’re not seeing a lot of people being admitted for this year is the flu, with masks and social distancing also helping to mitigate that risk.
As the state ramps up vaccine efforts, hospitals say this high patient capacity makes it hard to find enough staff to put shots in arms at the planned mass-vaccination clinics. Some ways they plan to solve that problem include bringing in more contracted traveling nurses, as well as extending work weeks for some, so if they work Monday through Friday at the hospital, they may help with vaccinations over the weekend.
“It’s really a challenge trying to find available workforce both to provide the care that’s needed at our facilities, both inpatient and outpatient,” said Dr. Jeff Salvon-Harman with Presbyterian Healthcare Services. “At the same time, be able to support ramping up of vaccination efforts to meet the needs of the community.”
Hospitals are also working to find places where they can give mass vaccinations. Lovelace says they’re working with the City of Albuquerque to possibly set up a site at Albuquerque High, and Presbyterian says they’re also scouting out locations. The hospitals say they’re either finished getting staff vaccinated with between 70-80% of staff agreeing to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
UNM Hospital Chief Quality and Safety Officer Dr. Rohini McKee, Presbyterian Healthcare Services Chief Patient Safety Officer Dr. Jeff Salvon-Harman, Lovelace Health System Chief Medical Officer Dr. Vesta Sandoval, and Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Gonzales took part in the discussion.