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UNM regents set to consider hospital expansion

The University of New Mexico could soon get some clarity about the fate of its hospital proposal – or at least whether it can advance to the next step.

UNM’s regents may decide next week if UNM Hospital can hire an architect and proceed with detailed planning for the first phase of what it has dubbed a “modern medical facility.”

Regents President Rob Doughty said Tuesday that he would put the request on the agenda for their Aug. 15 meeting.

The discussion comes about three months after originally scheduled. Regents were slated to address the matter at their May 11 meeting, but Doughty said he and university officials thought UNM should first brief the State Board of Finance, led by Gov. Susana Martinez.

The university does not need board approval to hire an architect and do planning, which officials estimate will cost around $12 million, but it would need its OK to start construction.

The school’s last hospital proposal did not fare well with the state board, which helped kill a similar plan about five years ago by never holding a vote on the project.

UNM has since resumed its efforts, saying it needs more beds to meet demand and a more modern space to replace UNM Hospital’s outdated and inefficient adult-care units.

The first phase would include a 120-bed facility northeast of the Lomas/University intersection at an estimated cost of $230 million to $250 million.

Regents took their case to the Board of Finance last month, when Martinez and other members asked whether building a new hospital now made sense given the changing health care climate.

The board also sent UNM officials a list of 44 questions, asking for details about how the proposal fits with New Mexico’s demographic shifts and funding sources.

UNM has more than $200 million banked for possible use on a new hospital, according to UNMH CEO Steve McKernan.

Now that UNM has answered all questions, Doughty said regents would hear the planning request.

“I do appreciate all the hard work that’s gone into this (and) all the information we’ve got,” Doughty said to UNM Health Sciences Chancellor Paul Roth, McKernan and other Health Sciences Center executives during a regents HSC committee meeting Tuesday.

“We were all very pleased at the support expressed at the HSC Committee meeting (Tuesday) and look forward to a fruitful discussion at the upcoming Regents meeting,” Roth said in a written statement.