SRMC adding staff for cardiac lab, bariatrics, more

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University of New Mexico Sandoval Regional Medical Center should have a permanent executive team later this month and a CEO hired in about four months, the UNM SRMC Board of Directors learned at its meeting Wednesday.

Steve McKernan, CEO for UNM Health System, said the hospital CEO position would be advertised over four to six weeks. An interview committee would then narrow the pool of candidates in two phases over two months.

Paul Roth, chancellor for Health Sciences at UNM Health Sciences Center, and the board will make the final decision for a permanent CEO, McKernan said.

The hospital has seen a lot of turnover, said Jamie Silva-Steel, interim-president and CEO. The annualized rate, as of December, was near 47 percent. Many, but not all, of those employees have been replaced with new hires.

Between July and January, the number of full-time employees has fallen from 380 to 364, according to documents in the meeting’s agenda packet.

Silva-Steele said the hospital has held Saturday blitz sessions to hire nurses on the spot.

Dr. Michael Richards, executive physician-in-chief at UNM SRMC, described three phases of physician recruitment for the hospital. The first two involve recruiting physicians for basic services and building a referral network for patients who need to see specialists.

During the third phase, Richards said, the hospital will recruit more physicians who are based at UNM SRMC. It will also work toward becoming a nationally-designated “center of excellence” and add specialists in bariatrics, neurosurgery and breast surgery, as well as renal and total joint programs.

Hospital funding

The board learned the hospital continues to struggle some with achieving its financial goals.

Documents from a presentation by Interim Director of Finance Darlene Fernandez show the hospital expected its expenses would exceed revenues by $1.66 million this June. But the year-to-date operating margin, as of January, was $6.46 million below break-even.

Silva-Steele said the hospital received $7 million last year from the Sandoval Council mill levy. In July, the mill distribution will switch from a 60/40 percent split between UNM SRMC and Rust Medical Center, respectively, to patient volume.

Rust appears poised to claim a greater share of the mill levy. It announced last month it will build a six-story tower with 120 more patient beds.

In presentations to the Sandoval County Commission last month, Rust said it had 6,000 surgeries and almost 31,000 emergency department visits in 2013, while UNM SRMC said it had 2,000 operations and almost 9,000 ED visits in the last year.

New directions

The hospital also plans to expand its facilities and the communities it serves over the course of this year.

Silva-Steele said the hospital plans to build an Interventional Radiology/Cath Lab, once it receives approval from the state Department of Health. By August, the facility could start seeing cardiac patients, who are currently taken by ambulance to UNM Hospital.

“The last four months, in total, have been about break-even for the hospital,” McKernan said. He also pointed out how the hospital’s original demographic studies had estimated 10-12 percent of patients would need uncompensated care, when in fact 25-28 percent had fallen into that category.

Enrollment in the hospital’s financial assistance program dropped from 397 in December to 237 in January, according to documents distributed at the meeting. UNM SRMC had expected to end its program in December, Silva-Steele said.

The board voted to approve an extension in the financial assistance program through December, in part to supplement what is available through Medicaid and on the health insurance exchanges.

Silva-Steele also announced a new advisory committee to the board. It will meet quarterly and focus on community engagement.

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