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Three major NM Hospitals see increase in respiratory illnesses

Three of New Mexico's biggest hospitals are struggling to find beds and treat patients amid the surge of three respiratory viruses
Gino Gutierrez
Three of New Mexico's biggest hospitals are struggling to find beds and treat patients amid the surge of three respiratory viruses

A surge of respiratory viruses that affect both adults and children alike have stretched New Mexico’s three biggest hospitals to their operational limits.

Dubbed a “triple-demic”, the combination of COVID, RSV and the flu have led to The University of New Mexico (UNMH), Lovelace and Presbyterian hospitals facing maximum capacity, limited beds for patients and packed emergency waiting rooms.

In a virtual press conference held Monday morning, officials from all three hospitals provided the public with an update on how they are addressing the high volumes of patients.

In the case of UNMH, which is the state’s only level-1 trauma center, the lack of beds is affecting their ability to provide this level of care for the patients who need it.

Overall, all of these hospitals said they are trying their best to navigate the high levels of sick patients they are encountering on a daily basis, but still find both their beds and waiting rooms full.

To help address this, they are calling on the public for help.

This comes in the form of doing a self-assessment of one’s health and conditions. Is what you’re experiencing a medical emergency? Can it be treated by your primary care doctor or at an urgent care? Can these symptoms be treated at home?

These are all questions these hospitals are asking you to consider before making the decision to seek emergency care.

If one does decide their condition requires a trip to the emergency room, they may find themselves in a triage tent.

UNMH has begun to set up and use triage tents outside of their emergency waiting rooms to help deal with the high levels of patients who are seeking care.

Chief Medical Officer at UNMH, Dr. Steve McLaughlin, MD explained what patients can expect in a triage tent.

“Given the current situation, when you come to an emergency department, what you can expect is to be triaged and that triage process determines really if it's safe for someone to wait. We are experiencing increased wait times and the triage process is really important to determine  who is safe to wait and who needs to be seen right away.”

Hospital officials also urge the public to get vaccinated against COVID and the flu, wear a face mask and stay home if you’re feeling sick.