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Thursday, November 27, 2014

North Valley clinic would serve more patients

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@ArdeeTheJourno

After acquiring land late last year, UNM Hospital officials continue to advance plans for the North Fourth Street Clinic.

UNMH CEO Steve McKernan said the hospital successfully acquired the property in December, and that at the moment, the hospital is working on a master plan for the facility.

UNMH aims to present the plan to the UNM Board of Regents in April or May, McKernan said. The plan will then go to the New Mexico Board of Finance one month after, before construction can begin, he said.

“It’s going to be a full-service, primary-care clinic,” he said. “The University of New Mexico has purchased the land, and we’re planning to build it hopefully within the next year with the permission of the state.”

McKernan said construction would take about six months, and that it would take another two months before the facility could officially open.

UNMH decided to establish the clinic to satisfy the needs of its Albuquerque patients, McKernan said.

“We studied the demographics of our patients,” he said. “There’s a great demand for primary care, and this looked like a great location given the homes of our patients and what their needs were.”

According to an article by the Albuquerque Journal, the hospital initially planned to begin working on the 17,000-square-foot clinic in 2011. The clinic will be located at the former site of Larry’s Drive-in, a North Fourth landmark south of Candelaria Road.

The North Fourth Street Clinic will be UNMH’s largest primary-care facility, according to the article. It will house 21 exam rooms, a radiology department and a blood work laboratory, and will employ a staff of about 25 to 30 people.

McKernan said that although the hospital planned the project three years ago, it didn’t acquire the land until last year because officials wanted to hold forums for community members of the area about what they think about the project. He said UNMH wanted to coordinate community members’ expectations with those of the city government, who previously owned the site.

“We had a commitment to go through all the community processes,” he said. “They had to match the neighborhood stuff… and to make sure it complied with the city’s plan.”

McKernan said the project will cost the hospital about $5.5 million. He said funds will come from UNMH’s budget.

The new clinic will also serve as a training facility for students in medicine, nursing and pharmacy, McKernan said.

Martha Archila, a UNM freshman, said she thinks that having more medical training facilities for UNM students would be important for those studying in medical fields. She said that although the facility would cost the University some money, it will bring in more benefits to community members.

“Any health care is better than no health care, so more clinics, more people can get helped,” she said. “I don’t think you can put a price on health care. It would be better to use that $5.5 million for health care than for other stuff that is not necessary.”

Archila, who has considered radiologic sciences as a potential major, said she would be interested to do her training in the facility if possible in the future.

Kylie Disch, a freshman studying biochemistry, said that because she plans to go to medical school, she might also consider training in the new clinic. She said that considering the benefits of the potential clinic, its financial cost is worth it.

“It’s a little bit of money,” she said. “But it’s not that much compared to what we’re spending on tons of other things… I plan on going to med school, so I’m always happy for other opportunities for somewhere else to find someone to shadow.”

McKernan said he feels thrilled about the project.

“We’re very excited about being able to establish another primary-care clinic in our community,” he said.