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Waitlists for New Mexico ER beds hit annual high


Acting Health Secretary David Scrase said at a news conference Wednesday, Dec. 8, that COVID-19 hospitalizations in New Mexico are the highest the state has seen since the first day of the year with 687 people hospitalized with the virus. ERs statewide are seeing the longest waitlists for beds all year.

Scrase said hospital capacity is made worse because people have delayed routine care for other illnesses during the pandemic and are now in need of hospital beds, which are few and far between.

He said there were 13 ICU beds available as of Tuesday afternoon.

“I know people think ‘oh, that’s not too bad, we have 13 beds,' but those beds were probably filled up by people sitting in emergency rooms within an hour or two of when we did that report – or certainly by the evening," he said. "So, we are very very tight on beds.” 

One Albuquerque-area hospital told the secretary they had 65 people waiting for a bed Tuesday, and another reported they had 90.

"If you have that many people taking up emergency room beds," Scrase said, "you’re  not able to see people who come in with emergencies and the system just almost grinds to a halt."

He says modeling does not show that bed capacity will likely improve soon, though it may stay steady.

KUNM’s Jered Ebenreck contributed to this report. 

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.