Concept art showing the ICU expansion of the tower expansion
By Makenzie McNeill

Expanding Critical Care

UNMH’s New Hospital Tower Will Include Larger Intensive Care Unit

The intensive care unit (ICU) at The University of New Mexico Hospital (UNMH), home to the state’s only Level I trauma center, is the go-to destination for those experiencing life-threatening conditions. 

A dedicated team tirelessly serves more than 70,000 New Mexicans with an array of injuries and illnesses each year. Because New Mexico depends on the critical care services only provided at UNMH, growing these vital amenities is an essential part of the hospital’s expansion.

That’s why the new hospital tower, currently in its second year of construction, will include a new, state-of-the-art ICU on levels 5 and 6. With 96 beds, this contemporary facility will enable UNMH to care for more patients with neurological, cardiothoracic, trauma and acute medical conditions.

Jonathan Marinaro, MD, professor and co-chief of the Center for Adult Critical Care, is passionate about what the expansion and upgraded ICU mean for the state.

“The University of New Mexico Center for Adult Critical Care provides the care for the sickest of the sick in New Mexico,” he said. “This new tower is an investment that UNMH is making in the health of our state.”

Michelle Harkins, MD, a professor who shares co-chief duties with Marinaro in the Center for Adult Critical Care, shared the same optimism.

“We want to serve our state – from rural areas to Albuquerque proper,” Harkins said. “The tower will expand our ability to do that in these nice, new facilities."

The new ICU in the tower will address many long-standing issues that also affect other areas in the hospital, namely a chronic shortage of space.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the ICU was continuously overwhelmed. During the most turbulent months, capacity soared to unsustainable levels. This created a scarcity of beds, which in turn caused an overflow of patients into non-standard treatment areas. 

While inpatient COVID volumes have decreased, inpatient capacity continues to be limited and the need for additional rooms remain.

Concept art of the nurse station of the new tower expansion
Level 05 - Nurse Station
Concept art of a patient room in the new tower expansion
ICU Patient Room

“Our main challenge in the ICU is that we do not have enough physical space for all of the patients that need our care,” said Tom Roha, executive director of Adult Critical Care. “Therefore, some patients must go out of state to receive critical care.”

Because UNMH wants to care for New Mexicans in New Mexico, upgrading the ICU is a key feature of the hospital expansion.

With the increase from 72 to 96 ICU beds, the tower will expand the hospital’s capacity to treat New Mexico's sickest patients by one third.

The consolidation of critical care services in the tower means the essential services an ICU patient might need will be moments away. These amenities include interventional radiology, surgical services and the catheterization lab.

Additionally, UNMH planners took great care when considering the design of the patient rooms, ensuring they can provide a space that promotes healing for patients and their loved ones during their stay.

Therefore, the new ICU rooms will be larger and more family-friendly, with comfortable areas for visitors to rest while they are at their loved one's side.

With more beds, more space and easier access to other critical care services, this new ICU will enable UNMH to continue serving New Mexicans with the most vulnerable conditions for generations to come.

“The new hospital tower is a big win for New Mexico,” Roha said. “Our community deserves the services provided by UNMH, and the tower will ensure that every person that needs our help can get it.”

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Categories: Community Engagement, Health, News You Can Use, Top Stories, UNM Hospital