Christus St. Vincent Reports Uptick in Violence at Hospital

New Mexico adds 1,189 new COVID-19 cases and 12 more deaths as hospitalizations rise 14%

Public health officials have repeatedly discussed New Mexico’s overburdened hospitals and understaffed healthcare workers in weekly COVID-19 updates, with cases currently surging and several hospitals—including the state’s largest—recently enacting crisis standards of care.

COVID-19 hospitalizations today rose to 639, 80 more than yesterday, and well on the way to the 700 hospitalizations recently forecast by a model from Presbyterian Healthcare Services.

But during a Nov. 22 legislative briefing from the New Mexico Hospital Association and hospital officials, Tim Johnsen, a registered nurse and senior vice president and chief operating officer at Presbyterian, said in addition to crushing patient loads and exhausting shifts, nurses are also facing harassment:

“Our nurses don’t stop at the grocery store in their scrubs anymore,” Johnsen said, because “healthcare, with its masking and vaccination requirements, has become an arena for conflict.” As such, rather than appreciation, nurses are “sneered at” in public. And at the hospital, he said, “in our hallways, our waiting rooms, our ERS and our ICUS... nurses are spat upon, kicked, punched, cussed out and physically assaulted. Daily.” In response, he said, Presbyterian has added security and metal detectors. “I truly never thought I’d have to worry about a nurse’s personal safety while at work,” he said.

His statements hit many people hard, including Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase. “We’ve talked at press conferences for a year now about how exhausted our nurses are,” Scrase said to SFR, “but I was pretty upset, actually, when I saw the kind of things, like kicked, spat on, things like that, not wearing their scrubs in public for fear of retribution, I think that’s terrible.” Scrase’s wife is a nurse at an outpatient oncology unit, he said, where patients “have close relationships with the nurses and I don’t think she’s had that kind of thing. She’s never been struck. She has had a lot of patients who want to spend time arguing whether COVID is real and whether vaccinations are safe, things like that.”

State Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, vice chairman of the Legislative Health & Human Services Committee where Johnson appeared on Monday, said he also found the report on how nurses have been treated grievous. “There they are, saving lives, doing their best and in return they’re treated very badly,” he said. “Somehow public health has come to mean government. Whatever happened to the notion that we’re all in this together?”

At Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe, Chief Nurse Executive Monica Leyba tells SFR the hospital also has experienced an uptick in violence and is in the process of increasing its security team. But workers are not encountering heightened politicized conflict, she says. Rather, they are dealing with the repercussions of increased violence in Santa Fe.

“We’re seeing an increase in violence in the city and that definitely does transpire into the healthcare setting,” Leyba said. “We have had increased violence and, in particular, to the care team: that could be be nurses, physicians, and all the other ancillary supports.

Overall, the hospital is seeing more victims of violent crime, such as stabbings and gunshot wounds, which used to be less common. That has led to the work to increase the security team and implement more early identification to de-escalate potentially violent situations.

“I think the pandemic and what we’re having to manage in our homes and in the city, that it just adds additional stress to people,” Leyba said, “so people are short and so we get to be the recipients of that.” In the emergency department, for instance, currently “we have longer wait times at certain times, and folks have to wait and are...getting a little inpatient. I understand it. Folks are not feeling well and they want to be seen quick and they want to go home, but our volume is higher so it’s taking us a bit longer to take care of our community.”

Christus, like other hospitals, is currently over capacity, she said, with the ICU at 117% and the rest of the facility at 111% capacity. As of this morning, the hospital had 19 COVID-19 patients, 84% of whom were unvaccinated, Leyba said. Those who are vaccinated were able to be discharged. As for other patients, as is the case throughout New Mexico, many patients delayed care during the pandemic, which has led to greater illness. The upshot is a crowded facility with nurses putting in extra shifts. Christus currently has about 100 traveling nurses, Leyba said, “so in true number, we definitely are short, in Christus St, Vincent, in our state and across the entire nation.”

Leyba said she supports a draft plan from the New Mexico Nurses Association, also discussed during Monday’s committee hearing, which includes $15 million in recurring funds for nurse education programs, among other initiatives. Scrase said he hasn’t seen the legislation so wouldn’t comment but in general workforce issues remains a focus for the Human Services Department (where Scrase is also secretary).

“One thing we’ve learned from this pandemic [is] we started out with a very low level of nurses and physicians and hospital beds and ICU beds, so part of what lies ahead of us is to build up our healthcare infrastructure and our physician and nurses’ ranks in order to provide more care for all New Mexicans.”

Ortiz y Pino described building out a training program as a “slow process” to SFR, noting “you can’t just suddenly kick into existence a whole new training program: You need to have the faculty, the locations where they can do their clinical.” Still, he said, “It will be a slow go but we need to do something” because the situation, as presented “is a very sobering situation, particularly the issue of nurse burnout” also discussed on Monday.

At Christus, Leyba said, nurses suffered through the first wave “when you’re seeing patient struggling to breath and you’re losing as many patients as you lose.” Those nurses now have PTSD, she said, and the current wave shows no sign of relenting. “So the care team is feeling the same thing with moral distress and they are exhausted,” she said.

The hospital has an employee assistance program, where it refers anyone who is assaulted at work, and which also offers resources to those struggling with the pandemic’s impact. “We do have quite a few of our associates that reach out for EAP,” Leyba said. “I would like to see it higher, to be honest…anytime we can work on the wellness of the team—and that is the mental health wellness also—then it helps us. We don’t know what this pandemic is going to bring. We don’t know if it’s going to end in three months or end in two years or continue just like we deal with the flu…so we have to prepare ourselves. So anytime we can encourage the team to get assistance to help manage that, we definitely want them to do that.”

Christus is also working on enhancing its resources for responding to potentially violent situations at the hospital, with one potential addition being a behavioral emergency team and a team of experts to assist the acute care team. Bottom line: “With the violence here in the organization, our organization is taking this seriously,” Leyba said. “We want to protect all of the associates so that we’re a truly a workplace that is free from harm.”

But Christus workers, she said, do continue to feel support from the community. The St. Vincent Hospital Foundation has a dedicated fund, the Associate Assistance Fund, to help employees with anything from gas cards to rental assistance. Javier Gonzales, vice president and chief development officer for the foundation, tells SFR 100% of the funds go to help employees—requests are managed through the hospital’s Human Resources department—with a recent golf tournament raising $220,000 for the fund.

“One of the things we’ve learned over the pandemic has been this bond that the community naturally feels toward health care workers,” Gonzales said. “The community wants to figure out a way to lighten the load.” And Santa Fe, he added, has “a culture of cariño...[when] somebody is having a tough time, there is a sense in the community try to figure out how to help them out.”

New Mexico health officials today reported 1,189 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 306,743. DOH has designated 260,582 of those cases as recovered.

Bernalillo County had 373 new cases, followed by Sandoval County with 214 and Doña Ana County with 180. Santa Fe County had 39 new cases.

The state also announced 12 additional deaths, 11 of them recent, including a female in her 60s from Santa Fe County who had been hospitalized; there have now been 181 fatalities in Santa Fe County and 5,289 statewide.

Currently, 85.1% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 74.1% are fully vaccinated. Among that age group, 20.6% have had a booster shot. In the 12-17-year-old age group, 64.2% of people have had at least one dose and 55.4% are fully inoculated. Among children ages 5-11, 13.3% have had at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine. In Santa Fe County, 96.5% of people 18 and older have had at least one dose and 84% are fully vaccinated.

New cases

  • 373 new cases in Bernalillo County
  • 1 new case in Catron County
  • 13 new cases in Chaves County
  • 15 new cases in Cibola County
  • 8 new cases in Colfax County
  • 16 new cases in Curry County
  • 4 new cases in De Baca County
  • 180 new cases in Doña Ana County
  • 12 new cases in Eddy County
  • 26 new cases in Grant County
  • 1 new case in Guadalupe County
  • 16 new cases in Lea County
  • 3 new cases in Los Alamos County
  • 10 new cases in Luna County
  • 22 new cases in McKinley County
  • 2 new cases in Mora County
  • 18 new cases in Otero County
  • 13 new cases in Quay County
  • 14 new cases in Rio Arriba County
  • 5 new cases in Roosevelt County
  • 214 new cases in Sandoval County
  • 80 new cases in San Juan County
  • 13 new cases in San Miguel County
  • 39 new cases in Santa Fe County
  • 5 new cases in Sierra County
  • 12 new cases in Socorro County
  • 6 new cases in Taos County
  • 7 new cases in Torrance County
  • 3 new cases in Union County
  • 33 new cases in Valencia County
  • 2 new cases among individuals held by federal agencies at the Otero County Processing Center
  • 2 new cases among New Mexico Corrections Department inmates at the Otero County Prison Facility
  • 21 new cases among New Mexico Corrections Department inmates at the Springer Correctional Center in Colfax County

New fatalities

  • A male in his 60s from Bernalillo County who had underlying conditions.
  • A second male in his 60s from Bernalillo County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions
  • A female in her 70s from Doña Ana County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions
  • A female in her 80s from Doña Ana County who was hospitalized, had underlying conditions and was a resident of the Las Cruces Post Acute and Rehabilitation Center of Cascadia (Welbrook Senior Living) in Las Cruces
  • A male in his 80s from Doña Ana County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions
  • A male in his 40s from Lea County
  • A female in her 70s from Luna County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions
  • A female in her 50s from McKinley County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions
  • A female in her 40s from Sandoval County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions
  • A female in her 60s from Santa Fe County who was hospitalized
  • A female in her 50s from Valencia County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions

Newly reported fatality from more than 30 days ago

A female in her 30s from Bernalillo County who had underlying conditions

Congregate facilities

The Department of Health has identified at least one positive COVID-19 case in residents and/or staff in the past 28 days at the following facilities:

  • Advantage Assisted Living in Rio Rancho
  • Albuquerque Heights Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center
  • Artesia Healthcare and Rehabilitation in Artesia
  • Autumn Blessings Assisted Living in Logan
  • Avamere at Fiesta Park in Albuquerque
  • Avamere in Rio Rancho
  • Aztec Healthcare in Aztec
  • Bear Canyon Rehab in Albuquerque
  • BeeHive Homes Alamogordo
  • BeeHive Homes in Clovis
  • BeeHive Homes in Roswell
  • Beehive Homes of San Pedro in Albuquerque
  • Belen Meadows in Belen
  • Bellamah House in Albuquerque
  • Bloomfield Nursing and Rehab Center in Bloomfield
  • The Bridge of Farmington in Farmington
  • Calibre Sagecrest Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Las Cruces
  • Camino Retirement Homes in Albuquerque
  • Casa Arena Blanca Nursing Center in Alamogordo
  • Casa de la Reina Assisted Living in Albuquerque
  • Casa de Oro in Las Cruces
  • Casa Maria Health Care Center in Roswell
  • Casa Real Genesis in Santa Fe
  • Cedar Ridge Inn in Farmington
  • Desert Peaks Assisted Living in Las Cruces
  • Desert Springs Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Hobbs
  • Fairwinds Assisted Living in Rio Rancho
  • Fort Bayard Medical Center in Santa Clara
  • Genesis McKinley Care Center in Gallup
  • Genesis San Juan Center in Farmington
  • Genesis Silver City Care Center in Silver City
  • Gingerich Home for the Elderly in Farmington
  • Good Life Senior Living in Ruidoso
  • Good Samaritan Society – Betty Dare in Alamogordo
  • Good Samaritan Society – Manzano del Sol Village in Albuquerque
  • Good Samaritan Society Las Cruces
  • Haciendas at Grace Village in Las Cruces
  • Lakeview Christian Home in Carlsbad
  • Las Cruces Post Acute and Rehabilitation Center of Cascadia (Welbrook Senior Living) in Las Cruces
  • Las Palomas Center in Albuquerque
  • The Legacy in Santa Fe
  • Life Care Farmington
  • Lovington Healthcare in Lovington
  • The Meadows Home at the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute in Las Vegas
  • Mimbres Memorial Nursing Home in Deming
  • Miners Colfax Medical Center in Raton
  • The Montebello on Academy in Albuquerque
  • The Neighborhood Health Care in Rio Rancho
  • New Mexico State Veterans Home in Truth or Consequences
  • Odelia Healthcare (Camino Healthcare) in Albuquerque
  • Palmilla Senior Living in Albuquerque
  • Princeton Place in Albuquerque
  • Ramah Adult Care in Ramah
  • The Rehabilitation Center of Albuquerque
  • The Retreat Healthcare in Rio Rancho
  • The Rio Las Estancias in Albuquerque
  • Sandia Ridge Genesis in Albuquerque
  • Sierra Healthcare Center in Truth or Consequences
  • Sierra Hills Assisted Living in Truth or Consequences
  • Skies Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Albuquerque
  • Sombrillo Nursing Home in Los Alamos
  • South Valley Care Center in Albuquerque
  • Spanish Trails Rehabilitation Suites in Albuquerque
  • The Suites at Rio Vista in Rio Rancho
  • Sunny Day Assisted Living in Gallup
  • Taos Living Center in Taos
  • Taos Retirement Village in Taos
  • Vida Encantada Nursing & Rehabilitation in Las Vegas
  • Village at Northrise - Desert Willow in Las Cruces
  • Village at Northrise - Morningside in Las Cruces
  • The Watermark at Cherry Hills in Albuquerque
  • Westwind House Assisted Living in Albuquerque
  • White Sands Healthcare in Hobbs
  • Willow Manor Residential Care Center in Deming

Statewide cases

County totals are subject to change upon further investigation and determination of residency of individuals positive for COVID-19.

  • Bernalillo County: 84,858
  • Catron County: 254
  • Chaves County: 13,599
  • Cibola County: 4,029
  • Colfax County: 1,591
  • Curry County: 7,802
  • De Baca County: 314
  • Doña Ana County: 35,121
  • Eddy County: 11,553
  • Grant County: 3,583
  • Guadalupe County: 648
  • Harding County: 50
  • Hidalgo County: 629
  • Lea County: 13,952
  • Lincoln County: 3,358
  • Los Alamos County: 894
  • Luna County: 4,449
  • McKinley County: 16,436
  • Mora County: 395
  • Otero County: 8,068
  • Quay County: 1,237
  • Rio Arriba County: 5,586
  • Roosevelt County: 2,959
  • Sandoval County: 18,169
  • San Juan County: 26,031
  • San Miguel County: 2,952
  • Santa Fe County: 14,568
  • Sierra County: 1,260
  • Socorro County: 2,019
  • Taos County: 2,792
  • Torrance County: 1,627
  • Union County: 412
  • Valencia County: 10,442

Cases among people being held by federal agencies

  • Cibola County Correctional Center: 455
  • Otero County Federal Prison Facility: 548
  • Otero County Processing Center: 610
  • Torrance County Detention Facility: 356

Cases among people being held by the New Mexico Department of Corrections

  • Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Valencia County: 346
  • Guadalupe County Correctional Facility: 257
  • Lea County Correctional Facility: 765
  • Northeast New Mexico Correctional Facility in Union County: 210
  • Northwest New Mexico Correctional Center in Cibola County: 131
  • Otero County Prison Facility: 477
  • Penitentiary of New Mexico in Santa Fe County: 231
  • Roswell Correctional Center: 230
  • Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility in Doña Ana County: 237
  • Springer Correctional Center in Colfax County: 175
  • Western New Mexico Correctional Facility in Cibola County: 78

*Per the health department, hospitalization figures include people who were tested elsewhere but are hospitalized in New Mexico, but don’t include people who were tested here but are hospitalized out of state.

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