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UNMH moves closer to building new hospital

Dr. Paul Roth

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The University of New Mexico continues to inch closer to a new hospital, with a key committee on Tuesday voting to begin more intensive planning for the new facility.

UNM’s Health Sciences Center Committee unanimously approved a request by UNM Hospitals’ administrators to pay for full architectural renderings and construction documents for the first phase of the project – a 120-bed, 372,000-square-foot facility on UNM-owned land northeast of the Lomas/University Boulevard intersection. Officials say it would cost between $230 million and $250 million and could be completed by 2021.

The architectural services would go out to bid, and UNM Health System’s Executive Physician-in-Chief Mike Richards said the design process would likely cost around $12 million and take about a year.

The hospital committee’s request must still get approved by the full UNM Board of Regents, which meets Thursday.

UNMH officials have proposed no specific funding plan. Though the hospital has enough cash saved to cover the first phase, UNM Hospitals CEO Steve McKernan noted that bonds also could be considered.

The HSC committee, which includes three regents, listened to an hour-long presentation by Richards, Mckernan and Paul Roth, chancellor of the Health Sciences Center. They described the 120-bed facility as the first phase of a 408-bed, $684 million hospital – a proposal that incorporated input from consultants, administrators, physicians and staff.

“We believe we engaged well over 400 members of medical staff and hospital leadership to be part of this process,” Richards told the committee.

Tuesday’s approval marks the latest step forward in UNM’s latest quest to build a new hospital, one its leadership says is necessary to meet community demand and enhance efficiency.

“We’ve been in need for both additional beds and to replace the current facility, which is simply not adequate to meet modern medical needs of patients,” Roth said.

A prior expansion effort died about four years ago. A proposed 96-bed facility earned Board of Regents and New Mexico Higher Education Department approval, but had critics that included Lovelace Health System. The New Mexico Board of Finance — which has the final say — never voted on the project.

HSC Committee member Rob Doughty, Regents president, on Tuesday questioned hospital officials about the financial impact the project could have on the university itself. McKernan said the hospital has and will continue to communicate with UNM’s executive vice president for administration and chief operating and financial officer David Harris, and would present a much clearer financial proposal before seeking permission to start construction.

“We’re coordinating very closely (with Harris). We’ll be briefing you at different stages of (the architectural design process), but we’ll also be briefing you with updates on (the) financial plan as the numbers get tighter,” he said.

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