Miller gives more details on hospital

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Plans by Miller Architects to build a Valencia County hospital seem to be moving along at a determined pace.

Darin Miller, the president of the firm, gave a presentation of the hospital feasibility study results at a special workshop last Wednesday.

He said his firm will compose a letter of intent to enter phase two of a confidentiality agreement with the village of Los Lunas. Phase two is a new confidentiality agreement, not an extension, he said, and it will give his firm the go-ahead to proceed on contract negotiations with a medical provider.

Miller would not disclose who the provider will be, but said he would within 30 days, and the provider will have naming rights to the hospital facility.

The letter will be a future council action, and once approved, will lead to the beginning of construction, he said.

"It's an exciting prospect for us to have such a facility here in Los Lunas," said Councilor Richard Lovato. "Not only to have it to serve the needs of Los Lunas, but all of Valencia County, and the jobs that it provides as well, is a great asset to us."

The facility is being called the "Valencia County Regional Medical Center," and could expand as a teaching hospital partner with the University of New Mexico and Workforce New Mexico.

"We're interested in any relationship or partnership that will enhance what we're doing in this community," Miller said. "And I think there are numerous opportunities for that."

Doctors and nurses will be recruited locally as well as regionally, for full- and part-time positions.

Councilor Charles Griego said he believes an adequate labor base could be found locally.

"I'm sure a five-minute drive versus a half-hour drive will be very attractive to a lot of people," Griego said.

It is estimated the project will create 175 direct construction jobs with 325 indirect jobs, and 250 direct hospital jobs with 200 indirect hospital jobs, as well as spur new development county wide, Miller said.

A general contractor with the experience and depth to do a facility such as this will probably be selected out of Albuquerque, and they will hire local subcontractors to fulfill their commitment on a construction basis, Miller said.

There are highly skilled local subcontractors, and Griego emphasized the importance of allowing them a chance to bid.

The VCRMC isn't the only facility Miller is planning. He is also considering satellite locations to create a county network.

The feasibility study conducted over the past six months utilized census reports and the Medicare database to determine the health care needs of the region from within five miles out to a 20 mile radius.

"This allows us to build a quantitative chart of the number of residence we will be able to capture in this market," Miller said.

The Medicare database gave a picture of how many births, how many and what types of medical services and procedures the community required in any given year, and allowed Miller's team to determine the scope of medical needs in the community.

Originally, the project was half the size what it is now, but after analyzing all the collected data, and seeing the village growth rate of 7.75 percent over the past few years, plus the county population of 76,569 people, a greater demand was revealed than what they formerly thought.

"That facility was not going to fill the entire needs of this community," Miller said. "We really feel like this needs to be a regional center, and it serves the entire county, and we are birthing babies at this facility."

Plans also include putting more financing into an expanded and improved ambulance service, he said.

The shorter distance to a hospital will be an improvement in itself.

Miller proposes to build an 85,000 square foot, two story hospital with a 25,000 square foot clinic on about 18 to 23 acres to allow room to expand and provide adequate parking.

The design includes creature comforts for visitors such as a dining garden and a roof-top terrace.

Miller wants the facility to be a sustainable model for health care in the county, with a campus to serve the county and beyond.

Preventing disease is just as important, if not more important, than treating disease, he said.

"What we're trying to do here is create a medical home," said Miller. "This is not a facility where you go (only) when you're sick, you actually come to this facility to stay healthy."

Current health care trends and the future of health care is geared toward preventative medicine and providing well-care.

The focus groups helped Miller's team learn what residents saw as the biggest issues, and to rank the services they desired. The biggest issue is emergency care and the proximity to emergency care.

The next is primary care, then auxiliary services, such as imaging and laboratory services, surgery, women's services, pediatric and rehabilitation services.

The VCRMC would house a large urgent care unit, so the ER wouldn't be over-burdened, and also include a radiology section, surgical services, a heart triage center, comprehensive outpatients services, MRIs, acute care, obstetrics and a woman's center with services such as bone density testing and mammography.

The facility will have state-of-the-art technology such as InQuicker, which allow patients to make doctor's appointments, reserve urgent care appointments or secure an ER visit online.

"As we build this facility, as we begin to enter the community, we want to be able to align with physicians, even if they're perceived as, or with competing entities, we want to open our arms and make sure they know that they have a facility they know they can refer their patients to for first class local services," Miller said.

The firm has picked out three sites with a favorite around N.M. 6 and Interstate 25.

But Miller won't divulge that information for another few months, he said.

The plan is to break ground between April and May 2013, allow seven and a half months for construction, and have the grand opening in October 2014.

Clifford Buck, a consultant with Empyrean West, a foreign investor program, pledged to pay 85 percent on the $55 million project.

"We've issued a letter of intent to finance the Los Lunas hospital for 85 percent," Buck said. "We've been working with Darin long enough and we know his credentials. We're so pleased to be part of his whole story of hospitals."

Empyrean West is also interested in other EB-5 (federal program that encourages foreign investors) projects around the village, said Ralph Mims, the village economic development manager.

"As you heard from Cliff, with a facility like this, we have a number of funding alternatives," Miller said. "We're in a very good position on this type of facility, because it's a huge job creator, it fulfills a definite need within your community — you don't have a facility, so there's no competition for facilities like this, so fortunately on this project, we have some options for the project, and we will be looking at those options over the next three months."

"It's a very exciting project coming to our village," said Mayor Robert Vialpando.

John Lopez from Bosque Farms wanted to know who ultimately owns the facility, and if there is a local board of trustees.

"We set up a Valencia Health Partnership," Miller said. "I can't get into those details, but it will be a similar structure."

No questions or public input was accorded at the workshop. Questions regarding the feasibility study and the hospital are being fielded to the village economic development manager, Ralph Mims.

Mims' email address is mimsr@loslunasnm.gov.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.