New Mexico Senate passes bill to fund indigent care

New Mexico Senate passes bill to fund indigent care

Some rural hospitals in New Mexico may be saved from closing after a bill was passed by the state senate Wednesday to fund indigent care.

Senate bill 268 would produce a way for counties to fund indigent care going forward.

Counties would be granted a new taxing authority and the state has pledged $9 million to help rural hospitals, but some worry it won't be enough.

The CEO of Roosevelt General Hospital, Larry Leaming, in Portales says they will see some changes if this measure passes.

"We are going to see some differences, they are going to see some hospitals that are going to be struggling to fund indigent care. We are going to take care of those people any way. But what is going to happen is we are going to see some tightening of the belt. We are going to see some services that are going to go away to make sure our hospitals stays alive and viable for the community."

The state has been receiving funds for indigent care through its sole community provider program which retires in July 2015.

Several rural hospitals in New Mexico have said they are in danger of closing if the state doesn't find a new revenue stream.

Roosevelt General Hospital's director, Amber Hamilton, tells us why hospitals are extremely important for rural communities.

"The first hour in trauma is life and death so to be able to have access to rural hospitals is very critical and it is a lifesaving measure we take it very seriously here and we are committed"

Leaming says this measure would change the way they care for people, but is sure they will make it work.

"We will have to care for people in ways that we have never cared for them before. With fewer and fewer recourses. It is very hard on a small scale to tighten your belt that tight. But we are going to figure out how to do that. We are also going to look at other ways of delivering care."

The bill has 20 days to be signed into law or vetoed by the governor.