A group of investors connected with National Surgical Hospitals, Chicago, has received permission from New Mexico's health department to break ground on a for-profit, surgical hospital in Santa Fe, despite strong objections from the city's only community hospital. "I think the reality of the situation is that it will have a negative financial impact on St. Vincent," said Alex Valdez, president and chief executive officer of not-for-profit St. Vincent Regional Medical Center. Valdez also said there is "plenty of capacity" at St. Vincent, which he said has about 185 staffed beds.
Bruce Shaffer, a physician who works in St. Vincent's intensive-care unit and is an investor in the new surgical hospital, disagrees. "We are way beyond our capacity, and have been for years," Shaffer said, adding that he recently admitted a patient for hip surgery who had waited in the emergency department for 14 hours. Shaffer said the new hospital will provide a range of surgical services, including gynecology, orthopedics and urology, but it will not offer cardiac procedures because St. Vincent provides those services. "We're not here to compete; we are here to complement," Shaffer said.
Jeff Dye, president and CEO at the New Mexico Hospitals and Health Systems Association, said physician self-referral is at the heart of the issue. "Our concern is over physician ownership and a potential conflict of interest for physicians who make decisions on a financial basis rather than a best-patient-care basis," Dye said. Kay Bird, a spokeswoman for the state health department, said the application for the new Physicians' Medical Center in Santa Fe is for a general hospital with 12 beds. At deadline, a representative from National Surgical Hospitals was not available for comment. -- by Jessica Zigmond