UNMH bracing for ‘fall surge’ of COVID-19 patients

Local News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A record number of new COVID cases has local hospitals expecting a surge of new patients, all while they already have a lot of non-COVID patients. University of New Mexico Hospital is among those watching the latest COVID surge closely, trying to thread the needle between COVID patients and everyone else.

“The COVID volume currently does not represent a significant percentage of the patients that we’re seeing,” said Dave Pitcher, M.D., the executive physician at UNM Health System. “Instead, we are actually full from [the] usual and normal business.”

That “normal business” UNMH says, consists of a lot of those elective and non-emergency procedures that were delayed in March, April, and May because of the shutdown. On Thursday, UNMH was reporting just about 10 percent of its adult hospital beds were being occupied by COVID patients.

Seeing nearly 600 new cases reported Wednesday, the hospital says it’s very concerned about how many of those infected by the virus will need critical care. That could take a couple weeks to play out or for medical experts to see if a large percentage of vulnerable populations are being affected by the virus. So far, UNMH says it isn’t dialing back on any of its non-emergency or elective procedures

“The ongoing health risks for delaying necessary medical care, there are consequences to that too,” Pitcher said. “We do not want to have to go back to that, to that kind of tool this time around unless its absolutely necessary.”

UNMH says most of its early plans made in the first few months of the pandemic still stand, meaning the hospital still has added surge capacity in other units or areas that don’t normally house critical care, ICU patients. The hospital also says it hasn’t noticed any pushback from the public yet over precautions like mask-wearing, temperature checks, and contact tracing type questions that patients and visitors get at the door.


New Mexico Coronavirus Resource Guide

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