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Farmington hospital deploys contingency plans due to rise of COVID-19 patients

San Juan County saw a large increase of cases in previous weeks

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
  • Hospital CEO Jeff Bourgeois told The Daily Times on Dec. 11 that the hospital had 73 confirmed COVID-19 patients with a total census of 156 patients.
  • The hospital had 37 COVID-19 patients hospitalized on Nov. 11.
  • The increase of patients being treated for COVID-19 led the hospital to deploy part of its contingency plan to allocate more beds for coronavirus patients.

FARMINGTON — San Juan Regional Medical Center has deployed contingency plans to add beds for COVID-19-positive patients as the number of people being hospitalized has almost doubled.

As New Mexico saw the number of COVID-19 positive cases rise in November, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham introduced a two-week “reset” of heightened public health order restrictions to stem the rise in cases.

For San Juan County, the number of COVID-19 cases increased by 3,342 between Nov. 11 and Dec. 11.

It increased from 4,254 cases to 7,596 cases, according to New Mexico Department of Health data. 

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There was only an increase of 789 COVID-19 cases from Oct. 11 to Nov. 11. 

Between Nov. 11 and Dec. 11, 53 deaths were reported in San Juan County. Only five deaths were listed between Oct. 11 and Nov. 11.

For San Juan Regional Medical Center, the hospital had 37 COVID-19 patients hospitalized on Nov. 11.

San Juan Regional Medical Center President and CEO Jeff Bourgeois

Hospital President and CEO Jeff Bourgeois told The Daily Times on Dec. 11 that the hospital had 73 confirmed COVID-19 patients with a total census of 156 patients.

Seven patients who had signs and symptoms of COVID-19 with a pending or negative test result were being treated on the respiratory floor.

Nine patients on the afternoon of Dec. 11 were waiting in the emergency room for a bed in the COVID-19 unit.

There were 13 intubated patients with seven of those being COVID-19 positive on Dec. 11.

There are 43 regular beds in the regular COVID-19 unit with 14 COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit beds.

The increase of patients being treated for COVID-19 led the hospital to deploy part of its contingency plan to allocate more beds for coronavirus patients.

The box containing 975 doses of the new Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is placed in an ultra-cold freezer inside San Juan Regional Medical Center in this photo released on Dec. 15. Caregivers will receive the first vaccinations.

Sixteen beds on the fifth floor that are a dedicated cardiology unit have been turned into beds for COVID-19 patients, Bourgeois said. Patients housed in the unit were relocated to other floors.

“We are not overrun, but we are extraordinarily busy compared to our normal level of activity,” Bourgeois said.

SJRMC does have a back-up plan to convert 10 additional beds to ICU level of care, according to Bourgeois.

That plan would be implemented in the event there are no ICU beds available elsewhere to transfer patients to.

During the first wave of cases which occurred in May in San Juan County, Bourgeois said other areas of the state weren’t hit as bad, so hospital staff had more ability to move patients.

Bed availability is currently tighter statewide due to the high level of hospitalizations. There were 865 COVID-19 patients statewide hospitalized on Dec. 15.

Bourgeois also said that staffing at the hospital has been a challenge.

Workers are being offered extra compensation to take extra shifts that are more than what they would normally work in a week. 

“We also have brought in a number of travelers in the areas specifically of nursing and respiratory therapy to assist with the workload," Bourgeois said.

Bourgeois has concerns about the possible increase of hospitalized COVID-19 patients as people gather in large groups during the holiday season, including family gatherings.

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“Those gatherings, if they do happen, would happen well before a significant portion of the population is vaccinated, therefore do run the risk of creating additional hospitalizations,” Bourgeois said.

The best way the community can protect the capacity of local health care systems and reduce the rate of COVID-19 spread is to avoid large gatherings, wear a face mask, wash your hands and socially distance, according to Bourgeois.

The hospital CEO did want to thank the community for PPE made by volunteers along with the cards, letters of encouragement and meals donated to the healthcare workers.

He encourages the community to keep those coming, especially the words of support for healthcare workers.

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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