With only one company expressing interest in building a hospital in the county, Valencia County commissioners have directed staff to reach out to the offeror to schedule an oral presentation.

“The oral presentation is the first step in the vetting process,” said Valencia County Commission Chairman Gerard Saiz. “This is just the beginning.”

A date for the oral presentation to the commission, which is serving as the evaluation committee for the project, hasn’t been scheduled yet, Saiz said.

The only respondent to the county’s latest request for proposal for an acute care hospital is Community Hospital Corporation, a Plano, Texas-based, not-for-profit company founded in 1996. According to its website, CHC’s mission is “to help hospitals remain community-oriented and governed” by providing them with “the resources and experience they need to improve the quality of health care, patient satisfaction and financial performance.”

CHC submitted its proposal in partnership with Lovelace Health System, in Albuquerque, and NexCore Group, a Denver-based company that develops health care facilities for hospitals, health systems and physicians.

NexCore’s portfolio of projects includes freestanding emergency departments, cancer centers, micro hospitals and outpatient centers.

“CHC has some presence in New Mexico, and I feel good they have Lovelace as partner. Having that local partnership is going to help with sustainablity,” Saiz said. “Lovelace has a good idea of the services needed, and can provide staffing and services the community is going to need. A local provider has always been important.”

At this point in the procurement process, the contents of the proposal submitted by CHC and its partner are still confidential, Saiz said.

“We will learn more during the oral presentation, but right now, I really can’t say more,” he said.

CHC is associated with three hospitals in New Mexico — Artesia General Hospital, in Artesia; Union County General Hospital, in Clayton; and Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital, in Gallup.

According to a report by KRQE in March, Rehoboth McKinley has lost nearly 150 employees since CHC took over management of the hospital in 2020.

During a town hall meeting, hospital employees discussed several issues, including the hospital’s staffing and mistreatment they say they’ve felt since CHC took over the hospital, the station reported. In addition, the workers, union and community members are drafting a petition to submit to the board of directors, demanding the removal of the management company.

The hospital temporarily closed its labor and delivery unit for a second time this year on Aug. 3.

CHC and Lovelace were the only two companies that expressed interest in the county’s RFP, which was released on March 17, shortly after commissioners approved an agreement with the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration for a $50 million appropriation to plan, design, construct, equip and furnish an acute care hospital in Valencia County.

The agreement requires the money be spent by July 15, 2025.

Responses to the RFP were originally due on June 17, but during the June 16 commission meeting, Valencia County attorney Dave Pato told commissioners one of the two health care companies interested asked to extend the deadline to submit proposals.

The commissioners voted unanimously to grant a 60-day extension, pushing the due date out to Aug. 16.

At their May 4 meeting, commissioners agreed $3.2 million of the $50 million allocated by the state for the construction of a hospital could be used by the successful provider for preparation of the  yet-to-be selected site, which the company will purchase then donate to the county.

Commissioners also agreed to dole out the collected mill levy funds to the provider over 10 years, starting with a lump sum of $5.4 million the first year, then $2.7 million for years two through nine. The original RFP called for the larger sum to be disbursed in the 10th year.

The county commissioners also rejected the idea of allowing a provider to offer a freestanding emergency department rather than a full hospital in response to the RFP.

Funds for the operation and maintenance of a future hospital facility were collected from county taxpayers in the form of a property tax from 2007 to 2014. So far, it has amassed $26,796,377.61 in an interest-bearing account at Bank of the West.

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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.