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Presbyterian proposes solutions to combat New Mexico’s health care worker shortages

New Mexico’s health care staffing shortage continues to worsen, with a recent reportnoting nearly all counties say this is their top occupational need. During a recent hearing of the Legislative Health and Humans Services Committee, an official with Presbyterian Medical Services spoke about the impacts of these shortages and offered recommendations to lawmakers to recruit and retain more workers.

Presbyterian is one of the state’s Federally Qualified Health Centers, meaning that no patient is turned away from receiving medical care because of an inability to pay.

However, the lack of staff is straining the system.

Larry Martinez, director of Legislative Affairs for Presbyterian, said loan repayment is crucial to address the need for new doctors, especially in rural areas that are hit hardest.

“The way we attract people to the remote areas is if you come to work for us for three years – either through the National Health Service Core or through the New Mexico program – we can get funding those. That’s a real incentive” said Martinez.

Martinez also recommended higher sign-on bonuses and looking at efforts to build affordable housing for providers and support staff.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been given calls by nurses and nurse practitioners in other states who said ‘you know your pay scale in New Mexico is fairly good but when I get on the internet to look for an affordable house, I can’t afford to pay for those real estate prices’” Martinez said.

He pointed to legislation passed in the last session designed to make more state funds available for affordable housing. Martinez said he would also like the lawmakers to increase Medicaid reimbursements to federally qualified health centers in the next session.

Martinez’s presentation also emphasized the need to complete a study on the administrative burdens faced by behavioral health care providers in the state. Lawmakers passed a memorial in this year’s session requesting the Interagency Behavioral Health Purchasing Collaborative partner with statewide associations to get that done.

Other causes of the shortages include medical schools not turning out enough graduates to meet growing demand, retirement of aging providers, and declining revenue with more virtual visits, according to the Presbyterian presentation.

Health care shortages are growing across the country, with federal data showing non-metro areas experiencing a 37% shortage of primary care doctors by 2036.

This coverage is made possible by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and KUNM listeners. 

Taylor is a reporter with our Poverty and Public Health project. She is a lover of books and a proud dog mom. She's been published in Albuquerque The Magazine several times and enjoys writing about politics and travel.
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