- Associated Press - Thursday, April 9, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Hundreds of patients are turned away from the University of New Mexico Hospital each year, and others are kept in the emergency department for days because of a lack of beds, officials seeking to expand the hospital said this week.

The hospital several years ago proposed a $146 million, 96-bed facility, but it stalled at the State Board of Finance. Hospital officials are working with a management consulting firm to develop a new plan they hope will win over the board in October, the Albuquerque Journal (http://bit.ly/1H8s8Hu ) has reported.

The hospital routinely has far more patients than the 308 adult beds available, with some awaiting admission in the emergency department for up to three days and others placed in recovery rooms, said UNM Health Sciences Chancellor Paul Roth.

The squeeze impacts patient care and safety, and casts a negative image of the hospital among other medical facilities in the region, he said.

Advanced Care Hospital of Southern New Mexico now transfers more patients to hospitals in El Paso, Texas, than it does to UNM Hospital and has started sending people to Arizona, said hospital CEO Suzanne Quillen.

The average waiting time for admission as an in-patient from the emergency room at the UNM Hospital topped 15 hours in March, Roth said, exceeding the national average of six to eight hours. Last year, the hospital turned away nearly 530 people, sending some to other hospitals in the area.

Building a new facility won’t sail easily through the approval process. The UNM Health Sciences Center’s board of directors, the regents, the state Higher Education Department would need to OK it before going to the state Board of Finance for final approval.

When the proposal was brought forth almost three years ago, health care groups argued the process wasn’t transparent and the hospital’s mission was unclear. Some Bernalillo County commissioners questioned whether annual property tax revenue should be dedicated to the project.

The Lovelace Health System also opposed the project, offering to make beds available at its location downtown. Lovelace also encouraged the UNM Hospital to enter into a bed-sharing agreement so it could take patients when the university hospital was full.

Roth said the UNM Hospital has been working to better manage the patient load and to increase the number of beds.

“If we could build bunk beds in hospitals, we would do it,” he said.

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