By Marty Mayfield
Miner’s Colfax Medical Center hosted Senator Martin Heinrich Thursday afternoon as part of his tour of northeastern New Mexico to learn more about health care needs in rural New Mexico.
Senator Heinrich spoke with staff and doctors at MCMC to learn more about what the facility offers and what it needs to take care of health care needs in Raton and the surrounding area. As Shawn Learch, MCMC CEO, told Heinrich the facility sees patients not only from Raton but a very large area in northeastern New Mexico and southern Colorado. As Heinrich walked through the halls of the facility Lerch pointed out the different areas and showed him the new CT scanner that was recently installed in the hospital.
Doctor Don Belknap, an ER doctor, told Heinrich about the different things that a doctor sees in a rural hospital like MCMC noting things like snake bites that are uncommon in the big city. Surgeon Angel Wright informed Heinrich of the need for nurses. Since MCMC has been under the state personnel office wages for nurses are as much as half what other facilities pay nurses. Even the prison in Springer is paying nurses up to $40 an hour while MCMC is only paying about $25 according to Dr. Belknap. Not only is pay an issue but just getting nurses to come to Raton. Many of the nurse that staff the hospital are traveling nurses who the hospital has to pay higher wages than local nurses. The ICU was recently closed at MCMC due to a lack of nurses to staff the ICU. Just another example of the need for nurses at the facility.
Medical care for veterans is also a priority for Senator Heinrich and he stresses the need for them to have health care locally as opposed to traveling two to three hours for health care. He and Lerch talked about those needs as well as behavioral health issues in the rural areas.
Senator Heinrich noted that the health care system needs to be tweaked by picking out what works and getting rid of what doesn’t work.
Interview with Senator Heinrich