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Health-care field growing; hospital adding services, tech

This artist’s rendering shows what Presbyterian Rust Medical Center is expected to look like when its next expansion is complete.

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — The numbers are out there; the trends are being followed.

For a career in a burgeoning field, or a pathway to a fulfilling career for a student in middle or high school, take a look at the health-care field.

Presbyterian Rust Medical Center just announced another expansion plan. It seems people aren’t getting healthier and will need continued medical help.

Other health-related providers are moving into that area; among them is Eye Associates, long in Rio Rancho but soon moving there from its site on Grande Boulevard.

RMC Chief Hospital Executive Angela Ward’s presentation at the June 6 meeting of the Rio Rancho NAIOP Roundtable dovetailed nicely with the morning’s first presentation, prepared by Rio Rancho Public Schools.

Ward gave a brief history of the medical center, from its opening in summer 2011 to the near future. Among the numbers: There have been 8,482 births there, 55,324 surgeries, 60,282 patient discharges and more than 756,000 visits to the physicians’ offices.

RMC has seen a 54 percent growth in its emergency department, with more than a quarter-million visits. Thus, Ward said, it’s time for a third “tower” — a $30 million expansion that will break ground this fall and open in the late summer or early fall of 2020.

“We’ve had a long history of growing our hospital and services to the community,” Ward said. “We are busting at the seams.”

Among RMC’s recently expanded services have been urology, bariatric care, podiatry, neurology, infectious diseases and oncology.

The hospital is bringing in new technology, including a “da Vinci robot” for deep-stomach surgeries — “a $1 million investment,” Ward said — going “live” in July. Inpatient pediatrics is also headed to RMC before the end of the year.

Also adding efficiency and, she said, a reduction in the cost of care, will be the move of the ambulatory surgery center out of the operating room. The change will allow Rust to go from performing 4,000 such surgeries annually to doing 16,000 a year.

Earlier, RRPS Chief Academic Officer Carl Leppelman and Benton Spradlin of the Career-Technical Education Department told how the district is shifting its focus for many students from the traditional preparation for college to vocational opportunities.

Leppelman said he learned at the current rate, the country will fall 5 million skilled workers short of industry demand by 2020.

Also important, the RRPS duo noted, among the highest-value career fields in New Mexico for the next decade, health science is No. 1. For the coming school year, RRPS high schools have 80 students enrolled in the biomedical sciences CTE program and 35 in the dual-credit high school and Central New Mexico Community College nursing program.

“The field of health care is monumental,” Leppelman said.

Along those CTE lines, RRPS is — in a partnership with Don Chalmers Ford — an auto and diesel technician program for 2019-20, and has plans through 2028 to establish electrician, plumber, HVAC and network and database specialist fields of study.

RRPS will face challenges to bring those programs on board: qualified teachers, facilities and equipment (the auto/diesel program will be taught in the district’s transportation center), a quality curriculum and recurring costs of supplies and materials.

“CTE can be life-changing for students,” Spradlin added.