One year to the day, the county commissioners officially released another request for proposal in an attempt to get the long-awaited county hospital project going once again.
On Tuesday, April 23, the county put out an RFP for a hospital/24 hour emergency health care facility, the same date it issued the nearly identical request in 2018.
The two key changes in this most recent RFP is the elimination of an inmate health care subsidy and the inclusion of a plain-language definition of what is considered a hospital as per the New Mexico Department of Health.
“Last year, the county issued a solicitation for a hospital, which included an inmate health care subsidy up to $950,000,” said county attorney Dave Pato. “That RFP was cancelled after trying to negotiate with Lovelace, during which it was determined that what they were proposing to build was not a hospital as defined by regulations.”
The new RFP doesn’t include the subsidy and defines a hospital as having a minimum of three beds, Pato said.
“Both Presbyterian and (other providers), during the last process, said they didn’t want to participate due to the inmate health care subsidy,” the attorney said.
The scope of the procurement calls for the private construction, then operation and maintenance of a hospital/24 hour emergency health care facility in Valencia County
Desired additional services at the facility include video conferencing for physician to patient communication, maternity services, dialysis, oncology, geriatric care, pediatric services, hospice, cardiac and stroke care, audiology and hearing aid services, family medicine, podiatry services, rehabilitation services and women’s health services.
Proposals are due back from interested parties by Wednesday, June 26, and the commission is hoping to award a contract by Aug. 7.
Another change to the process is the make up of the evaluation committee, Pato said. Last year, the committee consisted of the five commissioners.
After feedback from other local governing bodies, the committee this time will be made up of a representative from each of the five municipalities — Belen, Los Lunas, Bosque Farms, Peralta and Rio Communities — as well as a county member and a representative from the Pueblo of Isleta, for a seven-member committee.
Once a contract is awarded, Commissioner Gerard Saiz asked how the provider would communicate with the community about initial services and future growth.
“How do they propose to disseminate information to governing bodies and the public,” Saiz asked. “I would hope we could rely on them at a later date to host public meetings in different areas and allow the public to ask questions. Rather than making us that forum, the provider that’s going to run the facility should be responsible to the community.”
The RFP requires offerors to detail how they will disseminate information pertaining to the development, maintenance and operation of the hospital facility to the governmental entities within the county and to the public, including, but not limited to, three public hearings to be held throughout the county after the contract award, to address the public’s inquiries regarding the hospital project.
Commissioner Charles Eaton said after the last RFP was issued, there were a lot of questions, such as what type of insurance the facility would accept.
“People wanted to know what kinds of insurance they would take? When it was going to be Lovelace, they wanted to know ‘Can I use my insurance there?’ I think we should have them out there answering those questions,” Eaton said. “We owe it to the public.”
Ann Jones, a Los Lunas resident and member of the Medical Care Advocates of Valencia County group, told the commissioners education of the public was very important to the project.
“That’s one of the things we’ve run into a lot. People don’t know the difference between a hospital and an ER,” Jones said. “They are really acting like they are going to get a small county hospital. Educating the public is important otherwise they are going to think you didn’t do the job you are doing.”
Jones also said she felt it would be beneficial to contract with a company from New Mexico, who is familiar with the community.
“There’s a lot of information coming out of Texas about these companies having problems and financing issues,” she said. “If someone like that comes up high on the list, I hope you could investigate that as well.”
Pato said the RFP spelled out what qualifications and experience a successful offeror must have, and part of the evaluative process was to determine if an offeror was responsible and had the capacity and skills to proceed with the project.
“Through the process, there hopefully are ways to weed out not responsible offerors,” Pato said. “The RFP process looks for the most qualified. It’s like choosing a brain surgeon. You don’t want the cheapest.”
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.