Politicians turn out for anti-abortion press conference, fundraising

Anti-abortion advocates from across the country held a press conference in Albuquerque Wednesday morning denouncing New Mexico’s flagship university for its fetal tissue donation practices. Among those who spoke at the event were Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, New Mexico Rep. Steve Pearce, a Republican and Washington D.C. attorney Catherine Glenn Foster. Blackburn, who chaired the controversial congressional Select Panel on Infant Rights, said she came to “join my colleague in the House [of Representatives] and those in New Mexico that have worked on the issue of life.”

The Select Panel released a report in January faulting the University of New Mexico for lacking protocols to “ensure the survival of infants who show signs of life following extraction from the uterus.” It also scrutinized UNM’s relationship with Southwest Women’s Options, an abortion provider that has donated fetal tissue to the university for scientific research. Supporters of abortion rights, as well as minority Democrats in the Select Panel, have dismissed the report and the panel’s investigation for using “McCarthy-era tactics” to conduct “an end-to-end attack on fetal tissue donation and women’s health care.”

Pearce contended that “the laws are clear” and that “we’re simply stating, ‘Do not violate the law.’”

The Select Panel made 15 criminal referrals for its research of abortion providers and educational institutions across the country, including to New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas. To date, Balderas has not acted on the referral to his office.

UNM delays controversial ‘salud’ email change

University of New Mexico President Bob Frank has halted plans to change the email addresses of all Health Sciences Center employees, students and faculty. The controversial plan, which was to have dropped the word “salud” from their “@salud.unm.edu” address, simplifying it to “@unm.edu,” proved unpopular among faculty and others. The delay comes after outcry that included a survey found 319 of 325 faculty members were opposed to the idea. The email change would have affected more than 15,000 people. “After carefully considering these concerns, it has become apparent to me that an effort meant to unify our campus has instead had the opposite effect, growing into something that risks moving us further apart,” Frank wrote in an email to university students, faculty and employees, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

UNM employees facing possible elimination

Several employees and positions at the University of New Mexico are under review for potential elimination in an effort to consolidate positions between the university’s main campus and the Health Sciences Center. At least 21 employees between main campus and HSC received letters earlier this month with “UNM and HSC Consolidation/Alignment” as the subject. The reviews come three months after a controversial change to the governance of HSC. Earlier this year, UNM’s Board of Regents voted to bring the HSC under more direct control of the regents. UNM Regent President Rob Doughty, who with Regent Marron Lee authored the changes, at the time said the governance changes wouldn’t affect employees.

Staffing levels could hurt accreditation, nurses union warns

The head of a local nurses union said she plans to raise concerns about staffing issues at the University of New Mexico Hospital to the accreditation agency that rates medical institutions. In a letter written Monday to hospital officials, National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees District 1199 President Lorie MacIver accuses top brass at UNMH of “failure to at least engage in a real and serious discussion hospital-wide about staffing.”

This reasoning, MacIver writes, is enough “to inform you that we will be writing to the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) requesting that they review UNMH’s ‘commitment to creating a positive nursing practice environment’ to ensure the commitment is real.’”

She adds writing to ANCC is also an attempt to make sure “we don’t experience what happened when UNM’s Department of Dermatology lost its accreditation due to failures of the Health Sciences Center,” which oversees the hospital. As NM Political Report first reported in April, UNM’s Department of Dermatology lost its accreditation after what a university spokesman described as “loss of faculty over the past year in a highly competitive national environment.”

MacIver argued that retention issues in the hospital’s nursing staff could lead to the same problems at the hospital. “We’re hoping to open a dialogue with the hospital to say, ‘You’ve got serious issues,’” MacIver said in an interview. “Maybe it will take the credentialing people to say, ‘We need you to address the issues we have.’”

UNMH is currently seeking Magnet Recognition Program status, which is the most prestigious form of recognition that ANCC offers.

GOP congressional panel wants abortion investigation in NM

The chairwoman of a U.S. congressional panel wants New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas to investigate whether practices at two clinics here break state law. Specifically, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, claims that the fetal tissue donation policies at the University of New Mexico and Southwest Women’s Options are breaking a 2007 state law. That law, known as the Spradling Act, regulates body part and organ donations for science. In a press release, the U.S House Select Panel on Infant Rights claims that “under the Spradling Act the bodies or parts of aborted infants may not be anatomical gifts.”

“Documentation obtained by the Panel in the course of our investigation reflects the transfer of fetal tissue from Southwestern Women’s Options to UNM for research purposes is a systematic violation of New Mexico’s Spradling Act,” Blackburn said in the release. But the actual provision of the law Blackburn cited about abortion occurs under the law’s definition of “decedent,” which in other words means a dead person.

UNM health staff not happy about losing ‘salud’ emails

An effort to apparently improve the University of New Mexico’s branding is not sitting well with many of the people who will be affected by it. A directive from UNM President Bob Frank orders a change to the domain names of the emails of more than 15,000 students, faculty and staff within the university’s Health Sciences Center by June 30. Specifically, Frank ordered the word “salud” dropped from any domain ending with “@salud.unm.edu.” Instead, all domains will end with “@unm.edu,” like much of the rest of the campus. HSC includes the university’s medical school, hospitals, nursing school and cancer center. The change comes just three months after UNM regents voted to eliminate the HSC board of directors.

Regents misled after HSC takeover

Mary Kay Papen is the President Pro Tem of the New Mexico State Senate. Michael Sanchez is the Majority Floor Leader. Michael Padilla is the Majority Whip. All three are Democrats. In their guest column published on April 7, three of UNM Board of Regents, Regents Doughty, Lee and Fortner made a number of inaccurate assertions about the recent reorganization of the UNM Health Sciences Center medical complex (HSC).

UNM Hospital will see biggest Medicaid cuts

News that the state Human Services Department is planning to cut between $26 million and $33.5 million through how much the state pays for Medicaid provider payment rates filled healthcare advocates with grief, if not surprise, this week. It’s how the state agency is saving the biggest cuts—which will affect Medicaid payment rates for doctors, hospitals and dentists—for New Mexico’s biggest hospital that’s causing the most controversy in some circles. By this July, the state plans on cutting Medicaid payments at the University of New Mexico Hospital (UNMH) to inpatient services by 8 percent and outpatient services by 5 percent. That’s bigger than the 5 percent inpatient and 3 percent outpatient Medicaid cuts that the rest of the hospitals in the state will see. Lorie MacIver, a UNMH nurse and president of District 1199 of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, says the cuts will disproportionately hurt UNMH patients because the hospital is the only Level 1 trauma center in New Mexico equipped to treat the most serious injuries and health conditions.

UNM dermatology department loses accreditation

A handful of doctor residents University of New Mexico hospital may have to find a new place to finish their residency. The university confirmed Friday that its Department of Dermatology lost its accreditation. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education recently withdrew UNM’s dermatology department’s accreditation, effective June 30, according to the agency’s website. UNM’s website lists five doctors currently under the dermatology residency, three of whom won’t finish their residencies before the dermatology department’s accreditation expires. Billy Sparks is a spokesman for UNM’s Health Sciences Center, which includes the university’s School of Medicine.

Regent involved in UNM Hospital shake up deleted emails

Last month University of New Mexico Regent Rob Doughty shepherded to success a little-scrutinized plan to restructure the leadership and governance of the university’s Health Sciences Center. As one of the plan’s architects, Doughty also kept the plan secret — from the public, medical staff at UNM Hospital and at least two of Doughty’s fellow regents in the weeks before a March 14 vote that set the restructuring in stone. Now, the black hole of information surrounding how the plan came to be is growing murkier. New Mexico In Depth has learned that Doughty deleted emails he sent and received in the weeks leading up to the last-minute, controversial vote that changed oversight of UNM’s Health Sciences Center, which has an annual budget of $1.9 billion. The change did away with a board composed of community members and regents and replaced it with a panel of three regents, who are political appointees of Gov. Susana Martinez.