Increasing faculty salaries, addressing the state’s physician shortage and expanding health care education opportunities on the University of New Mexico’s West Campus were among the funding priorities that UNM Health Sciences Center (HSC) leaders presented to state lawmakers in Santa Fe this week.
Paul B. Roth, MD, UNM’s chancellor for health sciences, told members of the Legislative Finance Committee that recruiting and retaining top tier faculty remains a priority. The HSC is requesting $1 million in state funding to help offset the $6.6 million required to raise faculty salaries above the 20th percentile nationally.
While the HSC generates more than 90 percent of its annual $1.7 billion operating budget through clinical revenues and other sources, the institution relies on state appropriations to help cover medical school faculty salaries.
The state funding will “help us with the retention of faculty, who are also the medical staff at UNM Hospital,” Roth said.
The HSC is also seeking $905,000 to create additional medical education residencies to address the shortage of primary care physicians in rural and underserved areas of New Mexico.
Other funding priorities aim to increase health care access in other ways. For example, the HSC is requesting $400,000 for NM Connects, a program that will offer behavioral health consultations and training programs via teleconferencing technology.
Roth also briefed lawmakers on the HSC’s plans to expand educational offerings at UNM West, the university’s young campus in Rio Rancho.
“We are proposing we dedicate the majority of teaching efforts on that campus to be in support of the health care workforce,” Roth said, adding that the adjacent UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center would serve as a clinical training site for students.
The HSC is seeking legislative approval for a $10 million general obligation bond that would, along with a matching contribution from the City of Rio Rancho, help fund a new health education facility on the campus.
Other health sciences requests include:
- $883,200 for a comprehensive child maltreatment program at UNM Children’s Hospital.
- $451,000 to help cover utilities and equipment service contracts at the state Office of the Medical Investigator.
- $3,060,000 for Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes). The internationally renowned program, developed at UNM more than a decade ago, uses teleconferencing technology to expand access to specialty medical care in rural and underserved areas.
Following his presentation, Roth fielded questions from legislators on a variety of health care issues facing the state, including UNM Hospital’s plan to build a replacement facility for its 1950s-era adult hospital, which suffers from severe overcrowding.
Roth told the committee that his leadership team was moving forward with the lengthy planning process for the new facility. In the meantime, he said, UNMH is “moving aggressively to figure out other ways to virtually increase capacity,” including partnering with other health care organizations.
The State Legislature convenes for a 30-day session beginning Jan. 19.