Despite personal invitations and a meeting place in their own community, no Los Lunas doctors attended the Valencia County Medical Facility Study Committee meeting Tuesday night at the county courthouse.
Dr. Joseph Aragon of Los Lunas Family Practice did send the committee a typed letter listing his eight points, including his opinion “that there is a need for emergency medical services in Valencia County.”
Aragon, who had an out-of-town commitment, was unable to attend the meeting. Among his listed opinions, Aragon wrote, “The county government has no business running a health care facility, but it should support it financially in the form of indigent care funds that presently go to Albu-querque.”
“Government grants don’t last forever,” Aragon wrote, and, for that reason, he said he would not favor applying for grants to begin or continue an emergency facility.
The study committee will meet once more in August before presenting its final report to the county commission. Final details of the committee’s report have yet to be ironed out. However, committee members agree on one point: A county medical facility is definitely needed, especially one that would serve urgent care needs.
“There is a need for a 24-hour urgent care facility to be open 365 days per year,” said committee member Dr. William Hardy.
How that facility would be funded and where it would be located have yet to be determined. Several committee members pointed out that they were not prepared to conduct and interpret feasibility studies for a future medical facility. The committee does plan to contact health care providers in Albuquerque who might be interested in building a facility in the county.
“I’m happy that we got good representation, and we have good material,” said Committee Chairperson Ellen Syvertson after Tuesday’s meeting. “We’re eager to approach the health care providers.”
Presbyterian representative Kim Hedrick attended Tuesday’s meeting and said, “I’m hearing EMS and emergency care.
“Presbyterian is very supportive of Valencia County, but we would make a more in-depth study in population,” Hedrick said about preparation for any future medical facility.
John Cherry, Valencia County fire marshal, also attended the meeting and expressed the need for more ambulances in the county.
“The total minimum need for ambulances in Valencia County is for six,” Cherry said. “It’s just too much to ask of volunteers.”
Living Cross Ambulance currently operates three ambulances. County fire and rescue departments have seven transporting ambulances, according to Cherry — two available in Belen and one in Los Lunas.
Right now, volunteer ambulances transport patients to Albuquerque six to seven times a week, Cherry said.
“We can transport if living Cross is not available and there’s an emergency,” the fire marshal said.
All burn, cardiac and trauma cases must be transported to Albuquerque, Cherry explained.
From the Los Lunas exit at Interstate 25, it’s at least a 25-minute drive by car to the Presbyterian Hospital emergency room, without any rush-hour traffic or accidents. That does not include driving time for residents, who live farther away from that exit. The next closest emergency room would be at the St. Joseph Medical Center on Dr. Martin Luther King Avenue, at least 30 minutes by car from the Los Lunas exit.
Currently, Los Lunas has no medical facility open on weekends or later than 7 p.m. on weekdays.