New Mexico COVID-19 patients could be treated in tents in parking lots if spike continues

If residents across the state do not change their behavior, hospitals will be so overwhelmed by mid-November from COVID-19 patients, hospitals will have to set up “MASH” like tents in parking lots and share ventilators between patients. The state’s Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase and two guests, Dr. Jason Mitchell, chief medical officer for Albuquerque-based Presbyterian Healthcare Services and Dr. David Gonzales, chief medical officer for Christus St. Vincent Health System in Santa Fe, said that during an online press conference Thursday. Thursday afternoon, after the press conference, the state reported a record number of new cases and another record number of hospitalizations for COVID-19. Mitchell said the state is at “a pivotal point.”

Related: Heads of NM hospitals: Now is the time for New Mexicans to buckle down

If the cases of COVID-19 continue to increase at the current rate, the number of needed hospital beds will rise above the state’s 439 ICU beds, Mitchell said.

Senate Finance Committee prepares for vote on amended tax package to shore up reserves

Members of the Senate Finance Committee say they have reached an agreement on a package of taxes and fees that would help New Mexico resolve its projected budget deficit and shore up cash reserves to about 3 percent next year. The proposal amends several provisions of House Bill 202, including a tax that was opposed by doctors and hospitals. The Senate measure also would incorporate a gasoline and diesel tax increase that has already passed the Senate as a separate bill. By bringing all the elements together, Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, the finance chairman, hopes to stabilize the $6.1 billion general fund and guard against further credit downgrades. It also would buffer the state against expected federal cuts in education and health care.

Nurses union accuses St. Vincent’s of labor violations, retaliation

A union representing nurses and hospital technicians is alleging Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe has not met staffing levels negotiated in the collective bargaining agreement and fired a longtime nurse for being outspoken on the issue. The National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees Local 1199 recently filed a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board over the firing of Diane Spencer, a nurse who had worked at the hospital since 1997. Attorney Shane Youtz, who represents the union, said that the hospital fired Spencer on April 5 over a patient complaint that he called “a routine variety.” Youtz said HIPAA rules prevent him from divulging into details about the complaint but that it “involved absolutely no harm or no potential harm to the patient.”