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Future hospital in Las Cruces needs doctors

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — At least 50 doctors are needed to adequately serve the Las Cruces area’s health care needs, an official from Triad Hospitals Inc. said.

Triad plans to build a hospital in Las Cruces.

If 50 or 60 new doctors “across all specialties” can be attracted to Las Cruces within the next five years, “the community would be well served,” said John L. Hummer, chief executive officer for the new hospital.

Hummer said he plans to recruit 10 new doctors to the area by next summer.

He hopes to get specialists in internal medicine, general, orthopedic and vascular surgery, obstetrics, gynecology, cardiology and pediatrics.

There are currently about 160 doctors in Las Cruces. They serve a county population of about 180,000, he said. His estimate of the doctor shortage is based on industry-related benchmarks for ratios of doctors-to-residents, Hummer said.

Triad does not employ doctors, but plans to recruit doctors to join existing medical practices and to offer them privileges at Triad’s hospital.

“We still have to earn their business,” Hummer said. “We cannot force them to send their patients to Triad.”

Memorial Medical Center is currently the area’s only general hospital.

Triad plans to start construction of the 125-bed hospital in January. It will employ between 400 and 500 people.

The chairman of the Dona Ana County Health Council says he believes Las Cruces may qualify for federal status as an underserved area, which would make it easier to recruit doctors who have recently completed their medical training.

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Dr. Stefan Schaefer, a doctor at Memorial Medical Center, estimates that in the past two to three years Las Cruces has lost about 30 doctors.

The New Mexico Medical Society is currently exploring the reasons behind the doctor shortage.

Poverty, low Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements and a strong managed care industry are some reasons doctors leave, New Mexico Health Resources Inc. executive director Jerry N. Harrison said.

Hospitals and clinics around the state are having similar problems and blame low wages for the shortage.

New Mexico is increasingly losing out to Arizona, California and Texas, which are wooing away the limited pool with higher salaries, Jim Ferando, chief operating officer for Lovelace Health Systems, said in a previous interview.

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