The Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce recognizes that a strong community hospital is critically important to our economic future. The healthcare sector is forecast to grow and create many well-paying jobs for the future, but in order to create these career opportunities we have to focus on a new way of providing care using the latest methods and systems. But small rural hospitals are under threat: a recent quote from Albuquerque Business First “At the same time that more New Mexicans are getting health insurance, the state’s hospitals are reducing services because of lower reimbursement rates for government health programs like Medicaid and Medicare, according to the New Mexico Hospital Association.”.

It has been refreshing to see that our local elected officials have chosen not to weigh in on the complex contractual negotiations between Christus St Vincent and the nurse’s union. The officials rightly recognize that the world of healthcare and ACA reform is extremely complex and there are no easy answers to questions about funding, technology and staffing.

New management systems, government mandates, insurance and privacy requirements, required staffing levels, patient care procedures, competition from private and regional hospitals, a rising uninsured population, rising costs and other consequences related to healthcare reform. These are enormously complicated issues that are constantly changing. The impacts may not be felt for many years. In this environment, it is worth reviewing some pertinent facts related to local healthcare:

• Christus St Vincent (CSV) is one of only four unionized hospitals in New Mexico.
• CSV serves seven counties and 300,000 people
• 20 New Mexico hospitals had a reduction in expenses last year, eight by more than 10% and three downsized by 20%
• CSV is the largest local non-government employer in Santa Fe and spends over $30 million with local vendors each year
• CSV served over 53,000 emergency patients last year
• CSV nurses work 12hour shifts, three days on and four off, a preference of the nurses
• CSV is a not-for-profit hospital that provided over $47 million in care to the uninsured and under insured last year
• CSV “sole community provider” funding has been reduced from $30million to $4million and is likely to go to zero
• Medicaid reimbursements are now linked to improvements in quality outcomes and improved patient satisfaction indexes
• CSV Nurses with an Associates Degree and no experience start at $51,000 a year. These are great local jobs
• With benefits the average nurses compensation package at CSV is $83,000 for a three day work week
• It costs $800,000 a day to operate the not-for-profit hospital, from which $164M goes to salaries for 1,900 employees annually

Internet pundits enjoy playing the blame game and name-calling CSV management but we clearly have a hospital focused on improving the quality of care during this perfect storm of health care reform and issues are more complex than they might imagine. Christus St Vincent Hospital plays a critically important role in our community. As the major provider of healthcare, as a reliable community partner and as the largest private provider of jobs in the area, CSV is responsible for the health and economic well-being of thousands of Santa Feans. Let’s support positive outcomes and encourage civil discourse around this most important issue.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.