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Las Cruces Bulletin
Primary healthcare in Las Cruces took a big step forward Wednesday, Aug. 19, as La Casa de Familia (LCDF) health center announced stage-one plans to convert the old Memorial General Hospital (and later city offices) at 575 S. Alameda Blvd. into Cervantes Medical Complex (CMC).
When renovations are complete in the summer of 2016, the facility will include 30 examination rooms and 10 health care providers on the medical side, and 22 chairs and 14 adult and pediatric dentists on the dental side. The facility will also provide behavioral health care services. When completed, it will allow LCDF to “greatly expand affordable and high quality health care” in the county, said Melanie Goodman, as she read a letter from U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M. The facility, which will create 60 new jobs in Las Cruces, will also be one of only two teaching health centers in the state, she said.
‘We’ll find a way’
La Clinica, a nonprofit, federally qualified health center, opened in 1978. It provides medical and detail services in Las Cruces, Anthony, Chaparral, Santa Teresa, Sunland Park and San Miguel and operates the school-based health center at Centennial High School in Las Cruces.
“We were proud to provide some of the funds to get this project started,” said State Sen. Joseph Cervantes, who was born in the old hospital on Jan. 19, 1961. Cervantes said he was very ill as a newborn and is grateful to the staff of the old hospital for “saving my life.”
“The state has made a mess of our health care system in the past five years,” Cervantes said, leaving many in Las Cruces without health care. “La Clinica came right in and said, ‘We’ll take it right over. We’ll make it work. We’ll find a way.’” Cervantes’ father, Orlando, donated 160 acres of land he owned on the East Mesa to LCDF to use as collateral for construction loans to complete the health care complex.
The building has been the site of many people’s births since it first opened as a hospital in 1948, said Las Cruces Mayor Pro-Tem Greg Smith. The renovation is a good idea, he said, because it is often a good idea to “save things instead of throwing them away.” The health care facility, he said, will be “a huge benefit to this community.”
‘A real need’
Dr. John Andazola, director of the Southern New Mexico Family Medicine Residency Program (NMFMRP), who also was born in the old hospital, said New Mexico has a shortage of 220 primary-care physicians and also has the oldest physician population in the state. NMFMRP has had 80 graduates since it opened in 1996, with 60 percent staying in New Mexico and 80 percent of those staying in southern New Mexico. The CMC will provide 12 more positions for the NMFMR program, he said.
“I have a vision for Doña Ana County,” Andazola said, “to make Doña Ana County the healthiest county in the nation.”
Dr. Oliver Hayes, who arrived in New Mexico in January to become associate dean for Clinical Affairs at Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine (BCOM), said BMOC and CMC are working together to establish a residency program at CMC.
Hayes also said behavioral health is “a real need in southern New Mexico.” Beginning in July 2016, he said, CMC will train four psychiatrists a year. “This is going to be gold in New Mexico and southern New Mexico,” he said. Hayes was joined at the event by BCOM CEO and Executive Director John Hummer. BCOM is now under construction in Arrowhead Research Park on the New Mexico State University campus and will open with an initial class of 162 medical students in August 2016.
David Martinez, who is chair of the LCDF Building and Construction Committee, and a member of LCDF’s board of directors, said the metamorphosis of the old hospital in CMC began in 2011 when Suzan Martinez de Gonzales became LCDF CEO. A strategic plan was adopted in 2012 that called for LCDF to increase access to health care for local residents and to find a facility to accommodate new services. LCDF officials then met with Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima, City Manager Robert Garza and other city staff to find a new location. When the city council passed the Local Economic Development Act in February 2013, it allowed the city to deed the old hospital property to LCDF.
Martinez said phase one of the metamorphosis, hazardous waste remediation, is now underway; phase two will be the renovation work (which LCDF Board Chairman Jesus Prieto said will preserve the building’s territorial style); and phase three will be the ribbon cutting opening CMC in July 2016.
For more information, visit LCDF’s website at www.lcdfnm.org.