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Editorial: Time to consider broad Rx for NM health care

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Consider it a holistic approach to the state’s current health care provider shortage – a shortage that promises to become even more dire as 170,000 New Mexicans are added to Medicaid rolls.

A package of proposals from Gov. Susana Martinez is designed to train and attract more providers, as well as make it easier for those providers to reach residents in our rural state.

It starts with a statewide common-core nursing curriculum, designed to ease credit transfers and increase the number of bachelor’s degree programs.

It expands with additional slots for nurse practitioners and family practice residents at the University of New Mexico, as well as a loan-for-service program that would allow practicing nurses to pursue a higher degree and move into the classroom to teach the next generation of providers.

It adds $1.5 million to the loan-repayment awards to primary care, nursing and dental professionals who agree to work in rural parts of the state.

It invests $600,000 in telemedicine to improve services to rural patients and spends $500,000 annually to train and certify community health workers as a “permanent and critical segment of the state’s health care workforce and a patient’s primary care team.”

And it augments the local pool of professionals by making it easier for out-of-state nurse practitioners to relocate and begin work here independent of a physician.

While the governor’s proposals are subject to legislative input and approval, this is an excellent starting point. It is worth noting that New Mexico has struggled with the much costlier endeavor of recruiting and keeping physicians in the rural areas of the state. Training and recruiting the next tiers of providers will help fill that void, and will serve New Mexicans by reducing health-care costs and improving outcomes.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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