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Valencia County News

By Julia M. Dendinger

The long awaited formal announcement finally came at Thursday’s Los Lunas Village Council meeting.

Lovelace Health System is the provider partner for the proposed Los Lunas hospital, being built by Oklahoma-based Miller Architects.

In a phone interview Friday morning, Lovelace President and CEO Ron Stern said he was personally excited about partnering with Miller for the project.

“The things that make me happy and excited are changing and improving quality of care for people who need it,” said Stern, who has been with the company since 2005. “This is a unique opportunity and I think it will make things better for residents of Valencia County.

“This makes a lot of sense — we are neighbors, we are part of the community.”

Stern said Lovelace’s role and focus in the project is “purely on management. It is up to the developer to secure a location and then we roll up our sleeves and go to work.”

When Lovelace heard Miller was developing the project “using his own money, his own energy, we wanted to provide our high quality, efficient management,” Stern said.

The CEO said while in negotiations with Miller, Lovelace has begun to better understand the needs of the county.

“Our interest is to improve the quality of services in the residents’ own community,” he said. “Our plan is to study in detail the demographics of the community. From that, we will begin arranging and prioritizing services the hospital will offer in areas such as medical, surgical, emergency, pediatric care — what is appropriate for an inpatient hospital for Valencia County? Quality is our first priority.”

One question that has come up repeatedly about a county hospital is which insurance plans it will accept. Stern said he expects they will accept all insurance.

“I think they all will want a relationship with us,” he said. “It will be a first rate, quality facility close to so many people who have to drive right now, especially in cases of emergency. We will work with local providers to see how we can best support them.”

Stern said who will be responsible for staffing the hospital has yet to be determined.

After the council meeting Thursday, Darin Miller indicated that his company was moving forward with its original plan for the Los Lunas hospital.

It seemed like the project would have to be scaled back after the Valencia County Commission contracted with the city of Belen for the mill levy in September.

During public presentations of the project in October, Miller seemed to reverse course slightly on his previous statements that the taxpayer generated mill levy was not critical to the development of the Los Lunas project.

At that time, Miller said the firm’s study on needed medical services in Valencia County was greater than he initially anticipated, and therefore the support of the mill levy money is needed more than he originally thought.

The mill levy has been collected since 2007, and has resulted in almost $15 million for the operation and maintenance of a county hospital.

Miller said he will make a presentation on the project to the county commission in January. Janelle Raborn, chief operating officer at Lovelace Women’s Hospital will also attend the commission meeting.

Miller also said there are two potential sites being considered for the hospital — both are west of Interstate 25, one to the north of N.M. 6, the other to the south.

The 110,000-square-foot hospital project budget is estimated at $55 million with $31 million in construction, $11 million for equipment, $6 million in operating start up costs, $5 million in fees and financing costs and $2 million in contingency for any unexpected things during design and construction.

The 23-acre site west of the Los Lunas Walmart, between Sand Sage and Los Morros roads on N.M. 6, that the firm has a verbal agreement to purchase was due to the inclination of people to travel as quickly as possible to the largest metropolis in a medical emergency, Miller said.

It will create 500 local construction jobs, and 450 full-time hospital jobs.

The hospital budget is estimated at $40 million a year, including $14 million in salaries and benefits.

Miller calculated there are about 46,000 people within 10 miles of the site, and estimates that within a five-mile radius the hospital would capture 70 percent of those patients.

Plans are to break ground for construction in April or May and a projected full move-in date of October 2014.

Lovelace has provided health care in New Mexico for the past 90 years, earning local and national recognition, a press release issued on Thursday said. Lovelace Women’s Hospital, Lovelace Westside Hospital and Lovelace Health Plan were named to Modern Healthcare magazine’s 100 Best Places to Work for 2012 and were the only hospitals in the state recognized for this honor.

Lovelace Women’s Hospital is the home to the da Vinci robotic surgical system, providing minimally invasive surgeries and faster recoveries. Lovelace Medical Center’s Cancer Care program features the state’s only Perfexion Gamma Knife surgical system for noninvasive brain tumor surgeries, the release said, as well as the state’s most advanced TomoHD and 21iX linear accelerators.

Lovelace Health System includes the state’s only hospital dedicated exclusively to heart health, the Heart Hospital of New Mexico at Lovelace Medical Center, and the only hospital in the state dedicated to women’s health, Lovelace Women’s Hospital.

The system also includes Lovelace Rehabilitation Hospital and Lovelace Regional Hospital-Roswell, as well as Lovelace Health Plan and 11 retail pharmacies located throughout Albuquerque, Rio Rancho and Santa Fe, the release said.

Courtesy of Miller Architects: This rendering shows what a completed hospital in Los Lunas could look like. While there is a name on the building, project developer Darin Miller said it is simply a general description of the facility and the provider, Lovelace Health System, will have the final naming decision.

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