The University of New Mexico’s long-time mission to build a “modern medical facility” got back on track on Tuesday after regents voted to proceed with program management services and architectural design planning. It’s a significant step forward for a project that has seen speed bumps along the way.
Regents approved a $6.8 million contract with Austin-based Broaddus & Associates for construction management services and a $33.9 million bid with Omaha, Nebraska-based HDR Architecture Inc. and home-grown FBT Architects to provide schematic designs and construction documents. Planning is expected to take 12 to 18 months.
UNMH administrators have hoped for some time to address chronic capacity challenges by building a new facility. The recent availability of the UNM’s physics building on 6.7 acres located west of the hospital on Lomas NE may have provided the spark needed to allow the project to move forward.
Plans call for building a 48-bed addition to the current hospital that would include an adult emergency facility, pre-op and surgical suites and inpatient care rooms, according to Mike Chicarelli, the hospital’s COO.
An example of capacity needs, Chicarelli told regents the standard today is to build one and a half to two pre-op bays for every operating suite. UNMH has 16 operating rooms, but only five bays in the pre-op suite.
“It’s a choke point in the system,” Chicarelli told regents. “We can bring people in and get them ready, but it does slow down the operating room efficiency significantly.”
Chicarelli also told regents that hallways in the main operating room areas are typically lined with equipment due to lack of storage. He also showed pictures of operating rooms that are too small for modern needs.
Kate Becker, UNM Hospitals CEO, told regents the project would receive funding from the UNM Hospital Capital Initiative, which sits at about $203 million, or HUD guaranteed financing. The estimated cost of the project is about $400 million.
Dr. Paul Roth, chancellor of the Health Sciences Center, told regents bed shortages force UNMH, the state’s only Level 1 trauma center, to deny 1,000 patient transfers from other hospitals around the state each year.
Project delays included a 96-bed proposal that died at the state Board of Finance in 2012, when the Gov. Susana Martinez-led panel never held a vote on it. UNM introduced a 120-bed proposal in 2017, and regents voted to allow the university to proceed with design. But Roth said the university should at least consider some expansion alternatives, including an addition to the existing hospital.
“There had been a delay because we were revising a lot of the original premises,” Roth told regents. “… We wanted to be inclusive with the medical staff. … It has taken us longer than we thought.”