NM hospitals struggle with workforce shortage
Hospitals may have fewer COVID-19 patients than they did pre-vaccine, but they remain full with patients and understaffed. Lawmakers on the Health & Human Services Committee will hear about those hospital workforce challenges during two days of meetings starting today in Gallup. In advance, SFR spoke with Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, University of New Mexico Hospital and Presbyterian Healthcare Services officials about the specific issues their facilities face. In Santa Fe, Christus President and CEO Lillian Montoya tells SFR the hospital is encountering an unemployment trend she characterized as “the great upgrade” versus the so-called “great resignation,” wherein people are using this time to consider changing jobs and locations. Christus and the state’s other hospitals have made numerous adjustments to meet a changing workforce, including incorporating remote work for non-clinical staff and implementing same-day hiring at job fairs. They also continue to offer mental health and other services for staff traumatized by their work during the pandemic. An ongoing nursing shortage remains front of mind for all facilities, with the New Mexico Hospital Association scheduled today to present proposals to address hospital employment in a variety of ways, including by creating a permanent state funding mechanism for nursing education. Last month, New Mexico began distributing $15 million to higher education institutions across the state to expand nursing programs.
Santa Fe County starts using pre-trial risk assessment tools
The Administrative Office of the Courts yesterday announced improvements underway in Santa Fe County’s pre-trial judicial system, including centralized pretrial services the AOC launched last week that provides judges with a criminal background history and a risk assessment of everyone charged with misdemeanor or felony offenses. The risk assessment includes a Public Safety Assessment to help inform judges’ pretrial decision-making, currently in use in 10 other New Mexico counties (here’s some background on Bernalillo County’s use of the tool, which was created by Arnold Ventures). By mid-October, AOC also will take over Santa Fe County’s after-hours GPS monitoring for people required to wear electronic tracking devices—a service it currently provides for the Second, Third and Thirteenth Judicial Districts. “Robust pretrial services are essential for a fair and effective justice system,” Artie Pepin, director of the Administrative Office of Courts, said in a statement. “Critical decisions early in the criminal justice process balance a presumed innocent person’s right to remain free before trial with the community’s need for safety.” The announcement comes amidst ongoing debate regarding the state’s pre-trial detention laws. A push to revamp the state’s pre-trial detention system failed in the Legislature’s last 30-day session and a recent study from University of New Mexico and Santa Fe Institute researchers found such changes would be ineffective and unfairly detain people. Nonetheless, 85% of New Mexicans support changing the laws, according to a recent Albuquerque Journal poll.
SFPD: One suspect remains in Home Depot burglary case
Speaking of public safety, Santa Fe Police yesterday released the names of two of the people arrested after a shoplifting incident led to two chases and a lockdown on Monday. SFPD named Chrystyne Sanchez, 31, of Bernalillo and Jesus Gonzales, 24, of Santa Fe as the two suspects arrested on Monday afternoon following a vehicle pursuit ending near Guadalupe Street and West De Vargas. Sanchez was charged with aggravated battery upon a peace officer; aggravated fleeing a law enforcement officer; and tampering with evidence. Gonzales was identified as being part of the originating Home Depot robbery and charged with armed robbery; conspiracy to commit armed robbery; and aggravated fleeing a law enforcement officer. SFPD also released video of their capture of Gonzales and his tasing. If you’d like to see the new Public Safety Assessment tool in action, here’s Gonzales’ assessment. Court records indicate Gonzales—who is under investigation for several other retail thefts in the city and had a six-year-old arrest warrant out for residential burglary charges—has been placed on electronic monitoring (according to the older arrest warrant, it was issued in response to Gonzales’ failure to comply with electronic monitoring). However the district attorney asked for and received permission to delay Gonzales’ first court appearance today in order to determine whether to request pretrial detention. Police are still working to identify the second male involved in the Home Depot robbery. Anyone with info should contact Detective Ryan Romero at (505) 955-5344.
COVID-19 by the numbers
New cases: 233; 614,890 total cases
Deaths: eight; Santa Fe County has had 348 total deaths; there have been 8,493 fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 87. Patients on ventilators: five
Case rates: According to the state health department’s most recent report on geographical trends for the seven-day period of Aug. 29-Sept. 4, Santa Fe County’s case rate was 12.7, compared to 19.4 the previous week. The state recorded 1,657 cases statewide—based on reported cases—over the seven-day period, a 31% decrease from the prior week.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent update for COVID-19 “community levels,” New Mexico has no red counties, but Santa Fe County slipped from “green” (good) to “yellow” (medium) and is now one of six yellow counties. The state map, which updates each Thursday for the prior seven-day period, uses a framework that combines case rates with hospital metrics. The community levels site has accompanying recommendations at the bottom of the page. The CDC also provides a quarantine and isolation calculator.
Resources: Vaccine registration; Booster registration; Self-report a positive COVID-19 test result to the health department; Curative testing sites; COVID-19 treatment info: oral treatments and monoclonal antibody treatments; Toolkit for immunocompromised individuals. People seeking treatment who do not have a medical provider can call NMDOH’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-855-600-3453.
You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.
Some say Santa Fe’s Frank Ortiz Dog Park is one of the largest dog parks in the US. We will take their word for it: After all, the park boasts 138 acres of arroyos and hills and miles of trails where dogs (and people) can roam. On the most recent episode of Pet Chat, hosts Murad Kirdar, public information officer from the Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society, and Bobbi Heller, executive director of Felines & Friends New Mexico, talk with Diana Coderre and Jane Larson from The Dog Park Project, a nonprofit that works with the City of Santa Fe to enhance the park for people and their pets.
Taste of the border
Operation “Hot Chile” is underway at New Mexico’s Columbus port. The initiative is not a chile-tasting competition but, rather, US Customs and Border Protection efforts to process dozens of chile imports coming in from Mexico. According to a news release, CBP agriculture specialists will process between 90 and 100 shipments of chile a day during the busiest part of the import season; they processed just under 11,000 shipments of chile from Mexico during last year’s season and expect more this year. Agents will be looking to intercept pests, disease and contamination. “Chile is a huge crop for farmers in New Mexico so it is important that CBP agriculture specialists identify and stop any dangerous pests from making it into the state and potentially spreading to domestic operations,” Acting CBP Columbus Port Director Sam Jimenez said in a statement. Chile imports from Mexico have been expanding in recent years, providing competition to local chile growers, who have faced increasing labor and climate change challenges. Chile isn’t the only hot food topic at the border of late. CPB officers also confiscated more than 100 pounds of cheese last week at the Paso Del Norte border crossing in downtown El Paso, which a woman from Albuquerque had attempted to smuggle; she received a $1,000 fine (the cheese was destroyed). If you’re wondering how much cheese is copacetic to bring over the border, CBP El Paso Port Director Ray Provencio says it should be “commensurate with personal consumption levels.”
Georgia O’Keeffe the sleuth
Have you ever wondered what Georgia O’Keeffe would have been like as an amateur detective? No? Us neither. That, however, is the premise of the recently released mystery Light on Bone from author Kathryn Lasky, who usually writes children’s books (more than 100 of them). The Premise: O’Keeffe has come to New Mexico seeking solace from her husband’s affair and the abortion he forced upon her. She discovers Ghost Ranch and falls in love with the landscape until “until one morning close to dawn when she walks out into the desert and discovers the slain body of a Catholic priest.” From there, she uncovers an international espionage ring, while ending up in conflict with Charles Lindbergh and his wife Anne Morrow Lindbergh (and she has a “burgeoning romance” with the local sheriff). The Boston Globe apparently thinks it works (warning: We actually don’t have a subscription to the Boston Globe and are just going off the headline). In an essay for CrimeReads, Lasky discusses the shift in perspective writing about adults versus children afforded her in the novel, and the real-life events from O’Keeffe’s life Lasky incorporated into her mystery. “There was one gem of a fact that I discovered about O’Keeffe,” Lasky writes. “She had an odd perceptual phenomenon known as synesthesia. For Georgia it was a blessing. For an amateur sleuth it would be as well.”
Santa Fe could see rain today, according to the National Weather Service, which forecasts a 20% chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Otherwise, it should be mostly cloudy with a high temperature near 75 degrees and east wind 5 to 15 mph becoming west in the afternoon.
Thanks for reading! The Word thinks the Bali Kite Festival looks super cool.