NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – With COVID-19 cases surging again across New Mexico, health officials have been warning about hospital capacity reaching a dangerous point. KRQE News 13 looked into how much room hospitals have in each community.

The state is tracking data from each of its seven main ‘hub hospitals’ across New Mexico. Since some rural communities have fewer beds, more patients could be moved around.

The warnings are widespread. New Mexico Department of Transportation signs along state highways currently read, “COVID risk is extreme. Protect New Mexico hospitals and stay home.”

New Mexico Department of Transportation signs

“Typically, hospitals are about 60-65% full, although that varies throughout the state, and of course when you’re not in the middle of a pandemic,” explained Dr. David Scrase, Secretary for the Human Services Department.

According to the state, 81% of adult general beds are occupied statewide, and 71% of ICU beds are occupied. However, hospitals have made clear it’s not all due to COVID-19.

“There’s never been a point in time when COVID patients were the majority of hospitalized patients, and our goal here is to try to balance capacity,” said Dr. Scrase, during a news conference on Tuesday.

Slide presented by the state during Oct. 20 news conference

Dr. Scrase explained there’s a high burden of disease in New Mexico for things like heart problems, stroke, and diabetes. And because the nation is in a healthcare crisis, hospital capacity is a top priority.

For 33 counties, New Mexico has seven major ‘hub hospitals’ it’s tracking. A statewide Crisis Standards of Care plan shows how each of the hospitals can transfer patients from rural communities if needed.

San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington has the fewest number of ICU beds with 14, and a contingency plan to add nine additional ICU beds. The Farmington facility currently reports having five COVID positive patients and one COVID patient in the ICU.

Eastern New Mexico Medical Center in Roswell has four COVID patients in the ICU and 19 ICU beds. The Roswell hospital contingency plan can add 15 additional ICU beds.

Las Cruces hospitals currently report 67 COVID patients hospitalized, and 46 ICU beds still available. Presbyterian reports 70 COVID-19 hospitalizations at its facilities, 20 of which are in the ICU.

However, each facility says it still has room, with contingency plans in place to take on more patients.

New Mexico Hub Hospital ICU capacity & contingency

The main hub is of course Albuquerque, with the state’s only Level 1 trauma center. Dr. Alex Rankin, Associate Chief Medical Officer for the UNMH Transfer Center attributed the current hospital surge to people who’ve delayed regular medical care over the past seven months.

According to the state, New Mexico hospitals have a baseline capacity of 290 ICU beds. With contingency plans for what the state calls “crisis standards,” the state has an absolute maximum capacity of 623 ICU beds.