- Associated Press - Monday, March 14, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The University of New Mexico Board of Regents on Monday approved a plan that will change the structure of the governing board of the school’s Health Sciences Center.

The 4-2 vote came after an hours-long meeting in Albuquerque.

Under the new plan, a committee of three regents will oversee the Health Sciences Center, which includes University of New Mexico Hospital, the medical school, the nursing college and the cancer center. Previously, all had been governed by a seven-member board that included regents, community members and the chair of the hospital’s board of directors. That panel’s actions still had to go before regents for approval.

Regent Rob Doughty said an immediate change was needed to deal with a financial crunch.

The policy changes were first made public Friday, and at least two of the regents said they were not aware of the proposals before last week.

Critics accused the regents - who are appointed by the governor - of rushing to a decision. They said the changes amounted to a power grab that would politicize oversight of the Health Sciences Center.

Hundreds of medical students signed a petition that was read to the regents during Monday’s meeting. Faculty, a former regent and local elected leaders also urged the regents to put off making a decision.

Paul Roth, the chancellor of the Health Sciences Center, was among those who urged the regents to delay the vote. He suggested the reason for the policy changes was a move to siphon resources from the center to cover deficits on the university’s main campus.

“I believe these policy changes could dramatically undermine our success going forward,” Roth said in a statement.

The Health Sciences Center is the largest academic health complex in the state, and the hospital is home to New Mexico’s only top-level trauma unit. It also offers the highest level of intensive care for children and premature infants in the state.

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