ByBryant Furlow, New Mexico In Depth and ProPublica |
It was morning shift change at Lovelace Women’s Hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In the neonatal intensive care unit, the lights were dimmed, as usual. People spoke in hushed tones typical of the NICU. But an arriving clinician knew immediately that something had gone wrong.
A “crash cart” carrying resuscitation equipment was positioned next to a newborn incubator, the enclosed cribs that keep preterm babies warm. Nurses stood nearby with grim expressions.
The incubator light illuminated an infant’s swollen, discolored belly.
While COVID-19 cases continue to increase in New Mexico and record-breaking number of infections happen multiple times a week, chief medical officers from the state’s three major medical providers are urging residents to work together to lower those numbers.
During a news briefing on Monday, the chief medical officers of Lovelace Health System, Presbyterian Healthcare Services and the University of New Mexico Health System all stressed that the state can still lower the number of daily cases with some work. But without putting in that work, they said, New Mexico could see catastrophic impacts.
ByNick Pachelli and Ike Swetlitz, Searchlight New Mexico |
“The hospital and the country knew it’s coming. And administration and staff are running around throwing out all sorts of supplies,” said a nurse at Albuquerque’s Presbyterian Hospital, one of the state’s largest medical centers. A 20-year employee of the hospital, she requested anonymity because she had not been authorized to speak to the media.
“It’s sad, it’s horrific,” she said, ticking off a list of what was tossed out: hand sanitizer, masks, intravenous tubing, hospital gowns, bandages. “The whole closet.”
Professionals who assist with birthing center deliveries and at-home births in New Mexico say they are seeing more interest from soon-to-be parents because of the COVID-19 pandemic. One small midwife clinic in Albuquerque, Anidar ABQ Midwifery, is now getting four to five calls a day for at-home birth queries whereas, prior to the pandemic, it normally received about four to five calls every week or two, according to Claire Bettler, a certified midwife and nurse who owns the clinic. Birthing centers, which provide a more home-like setting for low-risk deliveries, are also seeing an increase in interest. Jessica Frechette-Gutfreund, midwife and executive director of Breath of My Heart Birthplace, said the Española-based birth center has seen its weekly call volume triple. “We’re getting somewhere between five and ten new inquiries a week.
Albuquerque resident Elena Rubinfeld is getting ready to give birth in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, Rubinfeld’s partner is a healthcare provider working on the front lines of COVID-19, a type of coronavirus, in an Albuquerque hospital. “I’m very proud of what he’s doing. I want him to be doing it. It’s extremely important.
Mike Chicarelli strode the halls of the children’s pavilion at the University of New Mexico Hospital, fist-bumping nurses and proudly pointing out the hospital’s kid-friendly touches: the surgery waiting room with seats shaped like hot air balloons, the intake counter designed like a 1950s soda fountain. The former emergency nurse, now chief operating officer of UNM Hospitals, was showing off what $234 million could buy a decade ago in infrastructure and technology. But all the bells and whistles haven’t been enough for UNM to hold onto its top pediatric specialists. Competition between UNM and Presbyterian Hospital – the two largest providers of pediatric specialty care in the state – has made it hard for either to sustain programs in cardiology, neurology and other areas of children’s medicine. The hospitals are now discussing a possible joint venture – a single children’s hospital, unified under common governance or housed under the same roof – that would help New Mexico retain hard-to-recruit pediatric specialists, improve care coordination and raise the bar on patient outcomes.