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UNM To Explain Planned Hospital

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The University of New Mexico’s Health Sciences Center will start a series of town hall meetings to explain its proposed $146 million hospital, after requesting a delay in its hearing for final approval.

UNM hospitals sent a letter to the state Board of Finance on Monday asking the board to delay the hearing that was scheduled for today.

The Health Sciences Center asked to go before the board on Oct. 16 instead, the letter states. No dates have been set yet.

The delay, and the public meetings, are a way to address community concern over the new hospital.

Several groups, such as the Rio Grande Foundation and the New Mexicans for Equal Health Care Access, last week raised questions about the hospital’s mission and finances. New Mexicans for Equal Health Care Access asked university regents, who already had approved the hospital, to rescind their vote and reconsider the issue. The state Higher Education Department also has approved the hospital.

Hospital officials responded by meeting with those groups, but decided to also host public meetings.

“We look forward to receiving approval for this very important project. We also look forward to sharing the reasons for this project and getting additional comments from the community as part of our ongoing commitment to maintain transparency and respond to community concerns,” Health Sciences Center spokesman Billy Sparks said in a news release.

UNM says the hospital is needed to address overcrowding and excessive wait times at UNMH, which sees about 90,000 emergency patients a year. The average wait for an in-patient bed is 24 to 36 hours, according to the university.

The new building at Lomas and Interstate 25 would be near the current hospital and would provide in-patient care with 96 beds. It would have radiology and lab services, a pharmacy, respiratory therapy and short- and long-term acute care.

Plans for the hospital began years ago, and it’s been approved in public meetings by several boards, including the HSC board of directors, the regents finance committee and the board of regents.

However, some people, including Bernalillo County Commissioner Art De La Cruz, say the process was not transparent and have asked the university to take a second look.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal