Recently, there was a letter to the editor in the Rio Rancho Journal titled “Hospital Got Its Money, Forgot Us,” to which we, the Community Advisory Committee for Presbyterian Rust Medical Center, would like to respond. We appreciate our fellow community member’s passion reflected in the letter for the well-being of our community. We would like to address his concerns to help educate the residents of Sandoval County about the mill levy.
Presbyterian Healthcare Services has been preparing for a West Side hospital for 20 years and purchased the site in Rio Rancho more than five years ago, before the mill levy ever existed. The delay of the Rust Medical Center was due to the global collapse of the bond market in 2009 that made it impossible for health care entities to sell bonds to finance capital projects. Presbyterian remained committed to investing $165 million to build the Rust Medical Center because of the support it received from voters in favor of the mill levy. Without the support of the mill levy, Presbyterian genuinely recognizes that it would not be possible to provide its health care services to our region.
We, the Community Advisory Committee, are 12 Sandoval County residents – not Presbyterian employees – who were selected as volunteers to oversee distribution of the mill levy funds. It is our responsibility to ensure funds are distributed in the best interest of Sandoval County residents. No funds have been, nor will be, given to Presbyterian Rust Medical Center until it begins treating residents in October 2011. This means that Sandoval County residents have not paid for the hospital to be built. Rather, the mill levy represents only 5 percent of Rust Medical Center’s annual operating budget and none of the $165 million construction budget. The money that Sandoval County residents have paid is currently being held by the county treasurer.
Also, this bond is not a “tax”; there is a defined period of time – four years – during which we will contribute to the mill levy. We have the power to vote in favor of renewing or discontinuing this mill levy in the future. These monies are not only for Presbyterian Rust Medical Center; they will be shared with the new UNM Sandoval County Regional Medical Center, which will open in 2012.
As committee members, we work with Presbyterian to prioritize health care needs throughout Sandoval County so when funds are released, they are used to benefit all county residents. Remember, it isn’t just Rio Rancho residents who voted in favor of the mill levy: There are Bernalillo, Corrales, Cuba, Placitas, San Ysidro, Jemez Pueblo, Zia Pueblo and several other communities that lie within Sandoval County. Our members are in the process of gathering feedback from residents of these communities to create guiding principles and priorities for mill levy fund use. We know that funds should target disease-specific initiatives such as diabetes and dialysis, and we believe that increasing access for the northern Sandoval communities, increasing supply of physicians and creating opportunities to train citizens as clinicians and physicians will also emerge as top criteria.
As a not-for-profit health care system, Presbyterian has been committed to Rio Rancho for more than two decades, and by building the Presbyterian Rust Medical Center, the organization is working hard to meet the needs of our community. Our county is growing exponentially and we need a forward-thinking health care facility to grow with us.
We are looking forward to the October opening of the new hospital, and we hope you will join us. We are thankful to those of you who did vote in favor of the mill levy; because of you, our community will be healthier and will have better access to care when it’s needed.
McGinnis is an at-large member of the Community Advisory Committee for Presbyterian Rust Medical Center. If you have questions for the committee, please contact McGinnis at email@example.com.
— This article appeared on page 16 of the Albuquerque Journal