Doctors and other health professionals told officials at 267-bed University Hospital in Albuquerque to abandon a policy that requires uninsured patients to sign up for the facility's managed-care program or pay some fees before getting treatment.
Some called the policy outrageous and said it creates an ethical dilemma if patients who are unable to pay are turned away.
"We have patients who waited four months (to get an appointment) in clinics getting turned away," said Michael Gardner, M.D., assistant professor in maternal and fetal medicine at the University of New Mexico. "That's outrageous. There's no way you can make that pretty."
The policy, which took effect May 11, requires uninsured patients to either sign up for UNM Care, a managed-care program for indigent people, or to pay $30 to $50 before they can get medical care.
Steve McKernan, chief executive officer of University Hospital, said the policy is not intended to deny care, but to enroll people in managed care.
"We think this will provide better outcomes for the patients," he said.
Employees met recently to discuss their concerns and how to appeal for changes.
Some said the payment plan creates obstacles to treating people.
While workers wanted a morato-rium on the policy, many said they already are refusing to carry it out. Signs required by the administration outlining the payment policy have been topped in at least a few clinics, and the hospital emergency room by staff-produced notes announcing that they will see anyone.
The concerns and suggestions that came out of the meeting will be presented to a joint committee representing the hospital administration and the School of Medicine.
"My issue is to see a kid who keeps an appointment with me. That's what I'm committed to doing," said Andy Hsi, M.D., who works in a UNM pediatric clinic.
"It's ethically imperative for us to provide healthcare. I don't care if people can pay or not," said Debbie Weissman, a physician assistant at the Southeast Heights Clinic.