By Makenzie McNeill

Expanded Outpatient Pharmacy

UNM Hospital’s Critical Care Tower Will Enable Patients to Fill Prescriptions When They’re Discharged

More than 20,000 prescriptions are filled every month at The University of New Mexico Hospital, and plans are underway to expand pharmacy services when the nine-level Critical Care Tower (CCT) is opened. 

The CCT will include a new outpatient pharmacy on the second level that is expected to better serve New Mexicans and their medication needs.     

“The CCT Outpatient Pharmacy is strategically located between the new emergency department and the parking garage,” said Michael Vanderwoude, PharmD, RPh, UNMH outpatient pharmacy supervisor. “This will help ensure that our patients leave with the medications they need to feel better and prevent another unnecessary stop as they’re on their way home to heal.” 

Currently, UNM Hospital has six outpatient pharmacies conveniently spread across Albuquerque, including four within primary care clinics (North Valley, Southeast Heights, Southwest Mesa and Family Health Clinic). Two of the pharmacies offer medication bubble packaging, which helps high-risk patients remember to take their medicines on time. 

The Outpatient Pharmacy also extends its care to the most complicated cases through its dual-accredited specialty pharmacy, which partners with all specialty care clinics within the UNM Health System to ensure the safest and best possible patient results.

The existing discharge pharmacy, located on Level 4 of the main hospital, eagerly awaits the opening of the CCT pharmacy to offset the large patient volume and limited available space. 

“One of the challenges that we are facing is that our discharge pharmacy currently services the entire hospital,” Vanderwoude said. “It’s tough, because over the past few years volume has almost tripled and we have begun to outgrow this space.” 

Our patients discharged from the emergency room or hospital will go home with their medicine so they do not have to stop at a retail pharmacy.

Frieda Ortega, PharmD

The CCT will be a welcomed change to address those challenges. The new pharmacy will mainly focus on the emergency department two floors below, dividing services and alleviating the pressure on discharge staff. 

In addition to its location on Level 2, the outpatient pharmacy will also have a private consultation room in the emergency department. This will allow pharmacy staff to counsel patients on medication, especially those with higher acuities or risks.

Moreover, the outpatient pharmacy team is looking to expand hours to eventually be a 24-hour pharmacy, which would create more access to medications for patients.  

“Our patients discharged from the emergency room or hospital will go home with their medicine so they do not have to stop at a retail pharmacy,” said Frieda Ortega, PharmD, director of outpatient pharmacy. 

“Right now, many 24/7 pharmacies are closing, so patients are having trouble getting their prescriptions. But at least we will be right here in the CCT. Once you get out of your clinic visit, you can come up to Level 2 and pick up your medicine.” 

Pharmacy services are a vital component of a patient’s recovery and journey to wellness. As outpatient pharmacy supervisor Raudel Duron said, “our pharmacy team does an excellent job of making sure that the patient goes home with the best medication at the lowest cost.” 

The new outpatient pharmacy in the CCT will provide another way for patients to access the prescriptions they need as efficiently and easily as possible. 

To learn more about the hospital expansion, please visit

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