By Andy Lenderman

Bernalillo County and University of New Mexico Hospitals seek public input on draft agreement

Bernalillo County - The community is invited to provide comment until Oct. 8 on the final draft of an agreement between Bernalillo County, the University of New Mexico Hospitals (UNMH) and the Indian Health Services.

The draft 2017 memorandum of understanding has multiple provisions, which broadly outline how UNMH can be more responsive on providing care for Bernalillo County residents. UNMH receives about $95 million a year in voter-approved mill levy property taxes designated for operations of the hospital. The majority of Bernalillo County voters supported this measure in November 2016.

The mill levy question is placed on the ballot for voter approval every eight years. The Bernalillo County Treasurer's Office collects and distributes the property tax funds to UNMH.

The draft memorandum of understanding covers a range of objectives that UNMH will address, including:

  • Report quarterly to the Board of County Commissioners, providing updates on hospital operations, including budget and programmatic changes
  • Establish mechanisms for the public to provide input on medical and behavioral health operations, planning and development
  • Work on increasing its number of primary care facilities the next four years
  • Decrease emergency room waiting times
  • Improve general healthcare services available to Native Americans
  • Recruit and train specialists in medical specialties most needed by Native Americans; work with Indian Health Services to provide Native American patients access to specialty clinics
  • Evaluate the use of telemedicine consultation between Metropolitan Detention Center and UNMH
  • Provide professional staff for a downtown Metropolitan Detention Center triage center for individuals brought in by law enforcement; provide case management services to county's Resource Reentry Center for people released from the Metropolitan Detention Center
  • Confer with the county and Albuquerque Public Schools about the feasibility of addressing students' medical and behavioral health needs in school-based clinics
  • Offer financial assistance for qualifying low-income patients; fees, co-pays or down payments for medically necessary care will be reasonably related to income

"Our community depends on the highly-skilled medical services that UNMH provides to Bernalillo County and people from all over New Mexico, regardless of whether they have adequate medical insurance," says Commission Chair Debbie O'Malley."Bernalillo County and UNM Hospitals are working together on a mutually beneficial agreement that will serve the diverse needs of everyone who uses these public facilities. I encourage the community to take a look at this draft agreement and send us their comments."

"UNMH and Bernalillo County are committed to providing exceptional health care for the residents of Bernalillo County, such as the UNM Children's Hospital, the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center and UNM's Clinical Neurosciences and Stroke Center. As the state's only Level 1 Trauma Center, we remain focused on delivering high-level care to all of our patients 24/7," says UNMH CEO Steve McKernan. "Important to our mission is continually assessing and improving Native American health programs by working directly with our statewide Native American communities. It is our goal to ensure transparency in the use of public funds to support the needs of our population. We value the community's feedback on this draft agreement."

The public will have 30 days to review and comment on the draft memorandum of understanding. To review and/or comment on the proposed agreement, visit www.bernco.gov/unmh.

Following the comment period, the Board of County Commissioners and the UNMH Board of Trustees have to approve the agreement before it's effective.

Historical Background: A long-standing federal agreement between the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bernalillo County makes the county responsible for operating the hospital known as UNMH.

A 1952 agreement provides for the operation of a licensed hospital by the county on land that was transferred to the county by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Since 1978, Bernalillo County has relied upon UNMH to operate the hospital through a mutual agreement that is renegotiated every eight years.

Categories: Community Engagement, Health