Hospital admin advocate

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Ballots for the special Hospital Mill Levy election have been sent out.

“We want to make sure the community is aware of the importance of this issue,” said Socorro General Hospital administrator Bo Beames. “We’re asking for the community to vote for the mill levy because it’s such a critical issue for the community at this time.”

The mill levy in question is at a rate of 4.25 mills, or 0.425 percent of property value, per year. Socorro County voters first passed the mill levy in 1980 and have renewed it every time it has come to election since, every eight years. This election would continue the mill levy for another eight years.

“The mill levy has been very well supported in the community since 1980,” Beames said.

Two passages in the text of the mill levy have changed from previous years. In the past, SGH has been listed specifically as the sole recipient of mill levy funds. Now, the text lists “Socorro General Hospital and any other qualified county facility.” Though SGH is the only qualified county facility right now, once completed, the Veguita Health Clinic could also qualify. Recipients of the funding must now also be “pursuant to the terms of a health care facilities contract,” something which SGH and the county are establishing right now.

SGH receives around $900,000 per year from the mill levy, Beames said. All of this money goes into a Federally Funded Sole-Source Provider program, which matches the mill levy money at a two to one ratio. As a result, the hospital receives a total of around $2.7 million in annual funding as a result of the mill levy.

But this money can only be used for a few things. It has to provide for direct patient care. SGH uses it to help defray the cost for those who can’t afford care due to insurance issues.

“(This money) helps provide reimbursement for patient care services for those people who are uninsured or on medicaid,” Beames said. “We depend on patient revenues to fund the operations of the hospital.”

Right now, SGH is focused on responding to the results of its recent Community Needs Assessment, which revealed access to care to be a significant problem in Socorro County. The Hospital Board has planned on increasing primary care services and extending hours. In order to provide non-emergency care for nights and weekends, SGH wants to increase staffing.

“(Our) plans hinge upon being able to recruit providers into the community,” Beames said. “(The mill levy) helps provide resources for us to recruit providers.”

Right now, four new employees are slated to join SGH: two emergency room employees, a new nurse-midwife and a new OB-GYN. Beames said the hospital is still looking for family practice providers.

“We feel (the mill levy) is important for the purpose of maintaining our current level and array of services for the community so that we can serve the patients we currently serve,” Beames said.