From the President – May 2020

Margaret Greenwood-Ericksen, MD, MSc, FACEP 

Greetings New Mexico Colleagues:
First, thank you for nominating and supporting me as New Mexico ACEP President for this year. I am very excited to serve in this role and honored to be able to represent our chapter on the national stage.

We find ourselves in an unprecedented time in the world, with novel coronavirus fundamentally disrupting the way we conduct our lives and work. Within this context, Emergency Medicine clinicians face challenges never before experienced — gripping concern regarding the wellbeing of our patients and communities, learning minute-by-minute how to best treat Covid-19, facing PPE shortages while coping with anxiety about personal and family safety, “working from home” without the support of daycare and school, and operational challenges related to the delivery of Emergency Medicine. Recently we have been wondering – “where did all the patients go,” with concerns that our fellow New Mexicans may be sitting at home, avoiding seeking life-saving care due to concerns of either becoming infected by Covid-19 or trying to adhere to a public health message to only seek care if truly emergent. We are now seeing a return in our ED volumes in the Albuquerque-area in both the medical and psychiatric emergency departments – and are unsure if the future holds a dramatic rise in need or continued avoidance due to loss of insurance, a downturn in the economy, and fear of Covid-19.

While we have never been so stressed by a time, we have also never before experienced such a rise in connectivity and efforts to assist one another and those in need. For example, UNMH, Presbyterian, and Lovelace are in regular contact with rural and Indian Health Service hospitals across the state through the New Mexico Central Command Center which receives calls from referring hospitals to place Covid-19 patients into available tertiary care centers. This level of acute care delivery coordination is unprecedented. We hear from our rural colleagues how challenging and complicated a transfer can be for a critically ill patient – it is my hope that this level of centralized coordination improves patient outcomes as well as ease of transfer.

Similarly, I am so pleased we have a growing connection with our rural colleagues including those in Indian Health Services. Moving our Annual Meeting to Zoom was initially disappointing but resulted in a remarkable turn-out across the state. Many commented that while future in-person meetings would be desirable, the virtual platform made it much easier for many people to attend – particularly for those outside of the Albuquerque area. We are unsure if our next meeting on August 12th will have an in-person option, but there will certainly be a Zoom-based option either way!

Our Annual Meeting was a great success, including presentations from clinical leaders from around the state (please see Dr. Bauer’s column!) and research presentations by our residents and fellows – all of which generated robust discussion. Our business portion yielded exciting additions to our Leadership – with Dr. Grant Scott at UNHM moving into the role of President Elect, Dr. Carlene Schleisman of Presbyterian serving as Secretary, and the good Dr. Tuuri of UNMH remaining as our Treasurer. We have two new board members with Dr. Melissa Fleegler of UNMH and Dr. David Cheever of Gallup Indian Medical Center. We will greatly benefit from Dr. Cheever’s work previously with WA ACEP as well as his perspective as a rural clinician at the center of our state’s Covid-19 outbreak and his key operational role in care delivery at GIMC.

We all greatly benefitted from Dr. Fleegler’s expertise in public health and health care when she joined me on New Mexico ACEP’s virtual Legislative Action Conference day in late April. We discussed improving access to PPE through prioritization for frontline personnel and a multi-pronged approach with proactive federal efforts and centralized coordination. We further discussed the importance of liability protection for emergency physicians during the time of Covid-19 as well as hazard pay. Finally, we discussed the critical importance protecting patients by waiving cost sharing and mandating coverage by insurers for Covid-19 testing and related services.

Until our next meeting, please do not hesitate to reach out to me and our leadership at any time – and we look forward to serving you and our community across New Mexico in this coming year.