Hospital touts quality, service

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Alta Vista officials present facilities to public this week

By Don Pace

In its annual report to the public, Alta Vista Regional Hospital officials said they have a vital, state-of-the-art facility, comparable to any big city hospital in the state.

Alta Vista Regional Hospital’s new chief executive officer, Maridel Acosta, who worked in major hospitals for 11 years, said sometimes people take things for granted. For example, she pointed out the new digital mammography capabilities and the 64-slice CT scanner, while most hospitals operate with 10-slice CT scanners.  

“I’ve seen a lot throughout my career at different hospitals, and we should not take what we have for granted, because not everyone is as blessed as we are here in Las Vegas to have this equipment,” Acosta said. “We should never be jealous of any hospital that is bigger than us, because we have a lot of great things happening here.”
Acosta added that the hospital’s biggest asset is its employees.

Chief Financial Officer Leonard Tapia agreed.

“Last year we paid over $17 million in payroll. We also like to let people know that in 2009 we instituted a living wage — no job here pays less than $10 an hour. We paid $2,769,000 in employee benefits, this company pays 75 percent of health care benefits. If you look across the country, that’s pretty high,” Tapia said.

However, it’s no secret the company has had a running battle with those wanting to organize a union. Alta Vista has refused to recognize the union, even though an overwhelming majority of employees approved its formation in 2007. Representatives of District 1199 of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees acknowledged it could take years before the government required the hospital to sit down with the union.

Tapia said Alta Vista is owned by a for-profit organization, Tennessee-based Community Health Systems, and therefore is not exempt from property taxes. He said that amounts to a big chunk of money going back into community coffers.    

Tapia said there is also help for patients that don’t have the financial capability to pay for medical services.

“We can forgive some or all of the debt, in 2010 it was $8,455,000,” Tapia said.

Tapia said the hospital also supports myriad charitable and community projects. He said the company tries to buy supplies locally, spending more than $900,000 a year with local vendors.

“We are part of the community, and we think that’s the right thing to do,” Tapia said.

Acosta said she and Tapia revised and signed a new discount policy, which allows for deeper discounts in out-of-pocket expenses, like high dollar deductibles. He said since Medicare appointments lapse every 60 days, the yearly savings could be significant.  

“Those people can come to us and say, ‘I don’t have such an ability to pay that,’ and we will give a discount on that,” Tapia said.

Tapia said these days Alta Vista is scoring high on quality and service.

“As you can see, we talk a lot about quality, because that’s going to get us away from that ‘hasta la vista’ quip meant to degrade our patient care,” Tapia said.

Tapia said proof of Alta Vista’s superior care is only a mouse click away. Anyone wishing to see how the hospital scored against other hospitals in core measures for outpatient care can log on to www.HospitalCompare.hhs.gov.

“Out of 20 hospitals, we were one of two to be recognized in the state of New Mexico to receive 100 percent. Little Alta Vista Hospital beat hospitals in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. For the inpatient side, we beat the national average of 95 percent and above. I’m really proud of this. It is huge,” Tapia said.

Acosta said she would not be doing her job if she didn’t ensure that Alta Vista can take care of all people in Las Vegas and northeast New Mexico. She said it is her goal to gain the trust of all potential patients by providing the best service in the state.

All this week, hospital officials are sharing the annual state- of-the-hospital report with the public. The hour-long briefing continues through Friday.