Available hospital beds decrease as COVID-19 cases surge in southwest New Mexico

Bethany Brunelle-Raja
Las Cruces Sun-News
Mobile morgues are set up at Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces due to a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths. Pictured on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020.

LAS CRUCES - During a joint press conference earlier this month, representatives from New Mexico's three major hospitals said that hospitals across the state were at capacity and that there was a strain on staffing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During that press conference, the officials urged New Mexicans to begin taking the threat of COVID-19 seriously. Since then, the number of individuals who have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has risen dramatically.

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During a press conference Thursday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham reported there were 3,675 new cases of the virus across the state, bringing the total number of cases to 74,116 statewide.

Available COVID-19 hospital beds in southwestern New Mexico as of Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020.

As COVID-19 cases increase, available beds in hospitals around the hospital decrease. During the news conference, New Mexico Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase displayed a map showing five available beds in Las Cruces hospitals.

Two of those beds were in the Intensive Care Unit.

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Another source, the Doña Ana County-City of Las Cruces Unified Area Command, released a document showing 64 hospital beds available throughout southern New Mexico as of Monday.

Neither of the two major hospitals in Las Cruces would comment on available beds at their campus on Friday, other than to say New Mexico residents need to take every precaution to not end up in one of the increasingly rare available beds.

Though Ryan Perkins, spokesman for Memorial Medical Center did say that the facility — which has 199 total beds and 32 intensive care unit beds — has had to, at times during the pandemic, make internal adjustments as necessary due to the number and acuity of patients at the facility. 

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If the number of COVID-19 patients continues to increase, Perkins said, MMC has contingency plans to treat those who come in needing assistance. But there are many variables to weigh, so it's difficult to give specific information about what those plans entail. 

"With each situation, we implement the specific part of the contingency plan that comes into play," he said. 

On Nov. 16, the first day of a two week reset ordered by the state, health officials reported that there had been 124,924 people tested in the southwest New Mexico region, which was an increase of 5,182 people from the previous week. 

Of those tested, 115,112 returned negative tests while 9,812 were positive, an increase of 541 new cases, or 7.85 percent. Of those who tested positive, 102 were hospitalized regionally.

By Nov. 16, the southwest region had seen 135 cumulative deaths since the pandemic reached New Mexico in mid-March. 

Perkins said all those who have been working in healthcare during this pandemic are heroes. 

"Everyone from EMS and first responders to doctors and nurses to housekeeping and other staff that all play important roles in quality, safe care," he said. 

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The community's support for healthcare workers during this time has also helped to encourage healthcare workers in Doña Ana County. 

"We also ask that they help us by planning to celebrate the holidays virtually without gathering," Perkins said. "Continue to mask, practice hand hygiene and social distance. This will help us all get through this as a community."

The Las Cruces Sun-News reached out to MountainView Regional Medical Center for comment on this story, but they did not return our call by press time Friday.

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Bethany Freudenthal can be reached at bfreudenthal@lcsun-news.com, 575-541-5449 or @bethanyfreuden1 on Twitter.