ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — University of New Mexico President Bob Frank announced Thursday – through an internal schoolwide memo – the first steps toward integrating the main campus and the hospital and medical school, but it was unclear if changes mean any staff reductions.
“There will be no one-size-fits-all solutions,” Frank said in the memo. “We have hard work ahead, but satisfying results in sight.”
Frank wrote that the objective is to “assess opportunities for organizational consolidation, integration and coordination” of the main campus and the Health Sciences Center, a $1.7 billion operation that includes the medical school and the hospital.
The memo follows the regents’ controversial 4-2 vote last month to restructure oversight of HSC, which critics characterized it as a “power grab.”
The memo issued Thursday outlined four areas for immediate study: University counsel, information technologies, communications departments and healthcare facility needs, including construction of a new hospital.
In an op-ed published in the Journal on Thursday, regents Rob Doughty, Jack Fortner and Marron Lee outlined reasons for the restructuring. The three regents, all of whom voted for the change along with student regent Ryan Berryman, cited a desire to curb the impression the main campus and the health sciences center were not part of the same university. “Our greatest power as the state’s flagship institution is that we are one University of New Mexico; that we are not a collection of discrete units connected in name only,” they wrote.
Opposition to the restructuring measure was heated, with faculty, physicians and activist groups contending the proposed changes were introduced too suddenly and without giving them a chance for study and response. The regents, with Lt. Gen Brad Hosmer and Suzanne Quillen voting no, voted after roughly 50 people spoke against the measure at a meeting in front of an overflow crowd.
The changes called for replacing a board of directors made of five regents and two community members with a committee of three regents. The regents also approved policy changes that bring Paul Roth, the chancellor of the Health Sciences Centers, more clearly under the purview of Frank.
Frank’s memo laid out key points staff would address by June 30.
Frank said he would create a group led by UNM Vice President for Administration David Harris and Chancellor Roth that would guide the planning for health care facility needs, including construction of the new hospital. University officials recently announced that FBT Architects and HDR Inc., an Omaha, Neb.-based architecture and engineering firm, are creating a development plan for the hospital, which will replace much of the old, outdated parts of the current hospital.
The new hospital, expected to cost up to $600 million, is intended to reduce wait times for emergency room patients, better handle an expected growth in the state’s senior population and allow UNMH to accept more patients from other hospitals, UNMH officials say.
Frank also laid out plans to consolidate and coordinate overlapping departments on main campus and the Health Sciences Center.
The university has a team of attorneys for the main campus and another for the Health Sciences Center. Frank says in the memo that UNM attorney Elsa Cole has already begun efforts to bring, “the HSC legal office back under the purview of the University Counsel.”
On the communications front, the heads of marketing and communication for the main campus and the HSC would work with an outside consultant to recommend a plan for the consolidation or integration of the separate departments moving forward.
Finally, Frank also said the university will move forward with a single email system. Currently, the HSC center uses its own email system.
Regents in the Thursday op-ed column sought to address some of the criticism associated with the restructuring. They said the move was an attempt to streamline the way the university operates, not an attempt to curb community input.
They also said no regent had voted against the new hospital, despite allegations to the contrary.
“Let us be clear, there is no “takeover.” How can one part of the university, be “taken over” by the university?” they wrote.