December 10, 2020

NM allows crisis standards of care, pauses elective surgeries

Citing overwhelmed hospitals, the state Department of Health issued new amendments to the state public health orders that will allow hospitals to operate under crisis standards of care regarding credentialing processes for COVID-19 health providers and another that would delay many elective surgeries until at least January.

Acting Health Secretary Billy Jimenez signed the public health orders.

“New Mexico’s health care providers and delivery system will continue to provide the best possible care to all patients,” Jimenez said in a statement. “New Mexico’s health care system, and everyone working within it, will continue to work toward the best possible outcome for our state. It’s so important for all of us to step up for those dedicated health care workers, to recognize the sacrifices they are making to protect our neighbors, to understand our own actions can and will make a difference.”

The crisis standards of care allows some physicians and other health care workers to be able to treat COVID-19 patients even if this is outside their scope of practice, under limited circumstances.

As for the prohibition on non-essential elective surgeries, it would not apply to any emergency medical care or any surgical procedure where a delay would result in a serious condition. The public health order provides the examples of “removing a cancerous tumor or a surgery intended to manage an infection.”

The prohibition on non-essential surgeries will last from Dec. 11 through Jan. 4.

This comes as hospitals have been warning for weeks that they were full or nearly full and that staffing has been an issue. The hospitals have supplemented nursing staff with traveling nurses and made other changes to allow more doctors to treat COVID-19 patients. Still, hospital leaders have said they are competing with hospitals in other states for additional staff as COVID-19 spreads throughout the country.

As of Wednesday, over 900 New Mexicans were hospitalized for the respiratory disease.