La Clinica de Familia’s remodeling of old Memorial General Hospital months away New clinic could open by July 1, 2016
Posted on The Las Cruces Sun News:05/03/2015 05:50:10 PM MDT
LAS CRUCES >> The temporary fence around the old Memorial General Hospital has been up for a while. Driving or walking past, it doesn’t look like there has been much activity in renovating the 67-year-old building, at 575 S. Alameda Blvd., which will become the Las Cruces Central Cervantes Complex, a medical, dental, behavioral health services and 24-hour urgent care facility operated by La Clinica de Familia.
But work is going on behind the scenes to get the renovation project started. The project is in the design phase, where final plans for the facility, which could cost as much as $8 million, are being refined. La Clinica de Familia officials are working with some members of the New Mexico Legislature to secure at least $643,000 in capital outlay funding to install broadband Internet lines, computers and telephones, and help pay for equipment for medical and dental rooms in the 43,000-square-foot building.
“We’re going, we’re moving forward,” said Suzan Martinez de Gonzales, chief executive officer of La Clinica de Familia. “We’re rocking and rolling. We’re hoping to have it running by July 1 next year.”
That’s about six months later than they had initially anticipated when plans to convert the former City Office Center into a clinic were worked on with the city of Las Cruces last year.
Martinez de Gonzales said renovation is anticipated to start by September.
“We should all see the lights on within the building and perimeter in the coming days, marking the start of the renovation process,” City Manager Robert Garza said.
In addition to the lights, Martinez de Gonzales said security guards will routinely patrol the site.
The city of Las Cruces, through the Local Economic Development Act, has given the building to La Clinica de Familia with the stipulation that at least 55 jobs are created at the new clinic within three years.
“Our LEDA agreement contemplates a clock starting for the performance requirements at such time as they occupy the building,” Garza said. “We have consented to allowing them to proceed with recruitment now, since getting the highly skilled medical professionals will be a long process and one that takes significant time, due to credentialing and other enabling processes.
“They will temporarily place their new employees within other facilities in the (Las Cruces) area so they will be ready to transfer to the new facility and make it fully operational when they open.”
Martinez de Gonzales said she anticipates there will be 52 staff members working at the new clinic during its first year of operations. The additional health care professionals are expected to increase the number of patients La Clinica de Familia will treat every year.
“La Clinica saw 23,000 patients last year,” Martinez de Gonzales said. “When the new clinic opens, we’re projecting 13,000 patients will be seen the first year just at that site alone.”
The floor plan
The first floor of the two-story building will include dental and behavioral health services for La Clinica patients. The health care agency recently announced plans to take over behavioral health services from the soon departing Arizona-based provider La Frontera.
The old hospital’s emergency room on the east side of the building will be converted into an urgent care facility that will treat patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The second floor of the old hospital, which had most recently been a city office center, will house mostly medical examination rooms and doctors’ offices.
Because the New Mexico Legislature did not approve any capital outlay funding during this year’s 60-day session, Martinez de Gonzales, other Clinica officials, and southern New Mexico legislators are hopeful a special session will be called to pass a capital outlay bill.
If that happens, state funds for the new clinic could be approved.
“There is at least $643,000 in capital outlay funds that have been pledged by legislators for that project,” state Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces said. “Of that, $475,000 has been pledged by Democratic legislators and $168,000 has been promised from Republican legislators. The funding would be used for information technology, and medical and dental equipment. Many of us put money in the capital outlay bill, but we all now know that the session ended before any capital outlay could be approved.”
State Sen. Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces, said he pledged $100,000 of state funds allotted to him for public projects to be used to install broadband Internet lines, computers and phones for the new clinic.
“All of the local legislators put in some money to cover the entire $500,000 needed for IT improvements,” Soules said. “I offered $100,000 because I believe in the benefits a new clinic will provide to our residents.”
State Rep. Doreen Gallegos, D-Las Cruces, said she, too, didn’t hesitate to pledge capital outlay funds.
“They need that funding to help wire up the building,” Gallegos said. “In this age, that technology is crucial if adequate health care is going to be provided. We all need to work together to keep this project moving forward.”
Whether or not the capital outlay funds earmarked for the new clinic are approved, Martinez de Gonzales said the renovations will be done. But the state funds are important because if they do become available, that could notably reduce the bank loan La Clinica de Familia will have to secure to remodel the building.
“When you’re talking about almost three-quarters of a million dollars, that capital outlay funding becomes critical,” Martinez de Gonzales said.
In addition to the renovations, Martinez de Gonzales said La Clinica de Familia officials are exploring the possibility of installing solar panels on the roof to help mitigate electricity and energy costs. Also, a system to recycle water used in the building to irrigate plants and vegetation outside the building is also being considered.
Fundraising efforts to help offset costs to paint, decorate and maintain outdoor areas of the clinic are also planned.