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UNM, Presbyterian partnering on pediatrics

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center and Presbyterian Healthcare Services have announced a partnership aimed at improving access to pediatric specialty care within the state.

The partnership includes discussions about the creation of a pediatric specialty outpatient center that would combine the resources of both entities to provide clinical, diagnostic, procedural and urgent care services.

Leaders from UNM Health Sciences Center and Presbyterian told the Journal the partnership is still in the early stages, though the two have been in talks since last year. Both organizations said they have had to direct families to out-of-state providers for certain pediatric services because of the small number of specialists in New Mexico.

“With highly specialized physicians, you may only have three or four for the entire state, and that creates non-sustainable practices if those physicians are on call every other night,” said Dr. Jason Mitchell, Presbyterian’s chief medical officer. “And, of course, we are a beautiful state, but recruiting to New Mexico is always still a challenge.”

Asked why two competing organizations would form such a partnership, Dr. Michael E. Richards, vice chancellor for clinical affairs for the UNM Health Sciences Center, said that “health care today requires a much greater degree of collaboration.”

“With a limited population size in New Mexico, a collaborative approach gives us better sustainability, and better care for the patient,” said Richards.

According to information provided by UNM and Presbyterian, 20 percent of New Mexico children have chronic or complex medical conditions.

Mitchell and Richards said clinicians across both systems have expressed enthusiasm about the partnership. The most common question, according to Mitchell, has been whether or not the partnership will also focus on pediatric primary care at this time. Mitchell and Richards said it will not.

The two organizations say they are participating in a pediatric specialty care task force through the New Mexico Pediatric Society. The task force was created during the legislative session earlier this year through a memorial introduced by Rep. Debbie Armstrong, D-Albuquerque.

In a statement, Armstrong said the partnership between UNM and Presbyterian in conjunction with the work of the task force “will make a difference” by increasing access and coordination to specialty care.

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