NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – It’s an issue further crippling hospitals across the state, a nursing shortage. Now, health care leaders are asking lawmakers to step in, to help them fill the gap.

“Our predictive modeling shows sadly an uptick of even more COVID patients in the next two weeks. and then you add in all the holiday travel on top of that,” said Tim Johnson chief operating officer for Presbyterian Healthcare Services.

On Monday, members of the New Mexico Hospital Association painted a bleak picture in front of the state legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee. “The hero banners are long gone, the energy and enthusiasm of nurses to rally around a new disease has turned to bitterness, anger, moral distress, compassion fatigue, and frankly complete exhaustion,” said Johnson.

Johnson says more nurses are leaving by the day. Many are ditching their jobs to go the traveling nurse route, a far more lucrative gig that can pay more than $200 an hour. This is something Presbyterian Hospital is now being forced to rely on. “At Presbyterian currently – we have more than 425 travelers, we have more than 500 vacant RN positions. Our emergency departments are staffed mostly by travelers,” Johnson said.

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Hospitals are now asking the legislature for help – to the tune of $15 million a year. “It would be a competitive grant process whereby applicants or institutions would be able to apply,” said Jamie Silva-Steele, the president and CEO of UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center.

The money, from the American Rescue Plan, would go toward a number of initiatives. Including moving nursing students to hospitals in rural communities. Some of that funding would also go toward new training facilities and equipment.