Eddy County healthcare providers struggled to deal with medical staff shortages while caring for COVID-19 patients during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The past year and a half has been a trying time for all healthcare facilities and providers, and the staff at Carlsbad Medical Center has faced challenges unlike any we’ve ever seen before,” said Marketing Director for the Carlsbad Medical Center Melissa Suggs.
Suggs said the greatest challenge was the growing shortages of nurses and other healthcare professionals.
Data shows Eddy County has been losing doctors over the last few years. In 2018 the county had 4.6 primary care physicians for every 10,000 people. In 2020 it dropped to 2.5 primary care physicians for every 10,000 people, according to the New Mexico Health Care Workforce Committee’s 2021 Pending Annual Report.
The state average was 5.15 per 10,000 in 2020. The report shows rural areas like Eddy County have less physicians than urban areas.
There were 3.1 primary care physicians per 10,000 people in Lea County and 2.8 per 10,000 in Otero County — both in rural areas — while Santa Fe had 7.76 per 10,000 and Bernalillo had 6.14 per 10,000, according to the 2020 report.
The risk of delaying health care
Suggs said the healthcare professionals who are practicing in the community saw patients whose conditions are worse than normal because many put off routine care, such as checkups and screenings, and even declined treatment in emergency situations due to the fear of COVID-19.
“We would like to remind the community to not delay care – especially when experiencing a medical emergency such as stroke symptoms or chest pain that may be a heart attack,” Suggs said. “Avoidance of care or routine screenings can lead to missed diagnoses or delayed treatment for time-sensitive issues such as cancer.”
Even while dealing with these challenges Eddy County’s healthcare professionals have worked tirelessly to guide the community through the pandemic.
The Carlsbad Medical Center cared for hundreds of patients with COVID-19, including emergency room patients and more severe cases, Suggs said.
The center also began providing monoclonal antibody infusion treatments for coronavirus patients, which have prevented hospitalizations by reducing the severity of symptoms, she said.
Over 50% of adults in Carlsbad have received at least one vaccine and 51.1% are fully vaccinated, according to the state Department of Health COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard.
“Our employees and provider team continually demonstrate how much they care. Against a global pandemic, they have been heroes in our midst, unwavering in the fight for the health of their patients and the wellbeing of our community,” Suggs said.
Claudia Silva is a reporter from the UNM Local Reporting Fellowship. She can be reached at [email protected], by phone at 575-628-5506 or on Twitter @thewatchpup.