ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – While rural hospitals struggle to balance an increase in critical care patients and limited resources, a new partnership with UNM is expected to help them prepare to deal with a growing number of COVID cases.

“It’s coming from eight rural hospitals from around the state, it’s very spread out and are [from] very underserved areas. We’re excited because this will increase their skill capacity to take care of sicker patients for a longer period of time,” said Stephen Stoddard, Director of the New Mexico Rural Hospital Network.

A virtual course offered by UNM is now available for hospitals in rural New Mexico for the first time. It’s supposed to help the hospitals increase their skill capacity so they can provide better care to all patients in critical need.

They say it’s even more important now because hospitals are filling up with COVID patients and they need to know how to respond. “Anything we can do to raise the boats of these small hospitals that are really struggling. We feel for them and wish we could do anything to help them,” said Dr. Jon Marinaro, professor and co-chief of the UNM Center of Adult Critical Care. Eight rural hospitals are participating in the course, with more than 120 healthcare professionals signing up.