Navajo Nation hospitals at 'breaking point'

Citizens are advised to wear masks at all times, even inside their own homes.

December 04, 2020, 2:49 PM

Hospital beds are almost full and supplies are running short in Navajo Nation, which is being overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic for a second time.

"Our hospitals are reaching a breaking point and a point of crisis with the number of patients that we're having to see, both for COVID and non-COVID care," Dr. Eric Ritchie, chief medical officer at Chinle Hospital, told ABC News Albuquerque affiliate KOAT.

PHOTO: In this file photo, staff at the Tuba City Regional Health Care Center screen people entering their campus  on April 14, 2020. The hospital on Navajo Reservation in Arizona has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases.
In this file photo, staff at the Tuba City Regional Health Care Center screen people entering their campus on April 14, 2020. The hospital on Navajo Reservation in Arizona has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases. Coronavirus
Michael Chow/The Republic via USA Today Network

During the first wave of the pandemic, doctors were able to transport patient who needed a high level of care to hospitals in bigger cities, but now, with the entire state of New Mexico to capacity, there's no where to transfer to.

Doctors are competing with other cities for scarce staffing resources and have asked volunteers and retirees for help in the coming weeks.

PHOTO: A nurse checks vitals from a Navajo Indian woman complaining of virus symptoms, at a COVID-19 testing center at the Navajo Nation town of Monument Valley in Ariz., May 21, 2020.
A nurse checks vitals from a Navajo Indian woman complaining of virus symptoms, at a COVID-19 testing center at the Navajo Nation town of Monument Valley in Ariz., May 21, 2020.
Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said during a Thursday press conference that he planned to ask President Trump to issue a major disaster declaration, which would make additional resources available to the tribe, such as funding for front-line medical staff and mental health.

Nez warned of a recent projection that suggested Navajo Nation's second COVID-19 wave would be four to five times worse than the first wave in May. Because of the worsening situation, he added, quarantine sites have been set up at hotels for people who need to isolate from family members. Citizens are advised to wear face masks at all times, even inside their own homes.

PHOTO: A nurse dons her protective gown as she prepares to diagnose a patient who may have coronavirus disease, at Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital on March 13, 2020 in Gallup, N. M.
In this file photo, a nurse dons her protective gown as she prepares to diagnose a patient who may have coronavirus disease, at Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital on March 13, 2020 in Gallup, N. M.
Donovan Quintero/Reuters, FILE

As of Thursday, Navajo Nation had reported 17,310 infections and 663 deaths since the start of the outbreak. In New Mexico, there have been 102,862 infections and 1,673 deaths, according to the state health department.

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