Serving the High Plains

Zamora: No abortions at new hospital

Quay County's manager said contrary to recent rumor, a new Dr. Daniel C. Trigg Memorial Hospital would not perform abortion procedures there.

Daniel Zamora, making a presentation Thursday during a Quay County Health Council meeting, said the new hospital would not be equipped to perform such invasive procedures.

He said he first heard about concerns about abortions at the proposed facility shortly after a Stantec engineer presented a nearly complete hospital design during the Quay County Commission's Jan. 9 meeting.

The county is hoping to receive at least $25 million from the New Mexico Legislature to build it. Lawmakers convene for its annual session this week.

Zamora said it was "a logical fallacy" a new Trigg Memorial Hospital would perform abortions and that such procedures "never have been discussed."

"It feels like a stretch that the residents of Quay County don't want a hospital due to abortions," he said.

Zamora admitted he initially was skeptical when Presbyterian Healthcare Services, which operates the nearly 60-year-old Trigg Memorial Hospital, approached the county about a new facility.

A study determined several parts the current hospital's infrastructure are near the end of their life spans, and its electrical system no longer meets code.

Zamora said because of those factors, Trigg could lose its critical-access status if it were no longer grandfathered. Without that status, Trigg no longer would receive Medicaid funds nor stay financially viable.

A feasibility study determined building a new hospital was the cheapest option over renovations or a hybrid of repairs and new construction. He said the county so far has spent about $1.1 million on planning and design for a hospital, and it obtained land just south of the current facility for the project.

Zamora said he learned that week the final cost for a new Trigg Memorial Hospital would be about $30 million. He said about $20 million of that would be construction, plus the cost of fees, permits and insurance.

He said he has asked state legislators an appropriation of $30 million, an increase of $5 million from an earlier request. Zamora said he still felt confident the county could fill the funding gap if the state allocated only $25 million.

Zamora said state Sen. Pat Woods has been asked to submit a capital outlay funding request for the hospital. He said a presentation about the hospital will be shown at the annual Quay Day on Jan. 17 that Lt. Gov. Howie Morales plans to attend. Zamora also said that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has stated her commitment to rural healthcare.

Zamora said other concerns from residents were the project would raise their taxes. He said the county has only $9.6 million in bonding capacity - only a third of what would be needed for a new hospital. He reiterated the facility would not raise local taxes.

Zamora said U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich last year tried to acquire $17 million in federal money for a new Trigg, but time ran out in the congressional session before lawmakers could act on it. He said Heinrich and fellow U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Lujan are considering another such measure.

Zamora said between the region's population, traffic on Interstate 40 and U.S. 54 and current patient numbers at the hospital, the proposed 41,000-square-foot facility is appropriately sized.

He dismissed the notion that Tucumcari requires only an urgent-care facility. He said Trigg is a critical-access hospital that has to provide patient care. He said while a new Trigg would have fewer beds, it would have more space for imaging, a laboratory and a pharmacy.

In response to a question, Zamora said he was considering having a new Trigg hospital pharmacy open to the public, especially after one of the city's pharmacies closed last year. He said security concerns with such a setup would have to be addressed.

In response to another question, Zamora said the new hospital's helipad would be at the southeast corner of the property.

Dana Leonard, a mapper and webmaster for the county, said only 11% of Trigg patients are transferred out of the area. He said a newer building typically leads to more healthcare being administered locally, and it would attract more doctors and nurses.

Zamora said eastern New Mexico's current bid to build a mental health facility in Clovis could lead to partnerships with it to perform some treatment in Tucumcari.

Regarding the current hospital building, Zamora said it "may still have some life left in it" after issues with lead piping and asbestos are addressed. He said the old Trigg might be repurposed as an office, nursing home or assisted living facility.

"I'd like to avoid demolishing it, if possible," he said.

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