Excellent Health Care From Curb to Curb by Rev. Dr. Anne Hays Egan

It’s interesting to be wearing multiple hats with the healthcare system in New Mexico. February as a consultant in public health and a patient with Presbyterian (PHS) and the NM Cancer Center (NMCC). A dear friend drove me right up to the PHS Horseshoe and off I went through the double doors, saying to myself “remember, you’re a patient,” and “ask for directions if you get lost.” I was, and I did. The staff, starting from those at the information desk and intake for outpatient surgery were terrific, and that continued throughout the day. From the administrative staff to the nurses and doctors in the OR, to the guy who took me out to find my ride. All of them. 

Believe it or not, even though I’m a Type A, double Gemini, I tend to have lower than normal blood pressure that can take a deep nap when I’m under anesthesia. At least sometimes. The rest of the time under anesthesia, I may be singing karaoke. I don’t know. One of the PHS pre-op nurses ensured that important information about me got from Denver to Albuquerque – and fast. No videos of karaoke. What I do know is that every one of the staff at Presbyterian on Central Avenue in Albuquerque, was exceptional with respect to their expertise and patient interaction. They cared, did well, and it showed. That made a difference for me.  

My specialist from NM Cancer Center, was the surgeon. She’s a highly skilled and compassionate professional with a great deal of experience. She and her team at NMCC are top notch. The fact that she has both an M.D. and Ph.D. makes me happy, for she navigates data and scenarios with ease, and answers lots of questions! As a health systems researcher, I’ve found that data makes my heart sing more often than I might publicly admit.

What frequently makes our collective hearts sing, here in New Mexico, is having accessible and affordable healthcare that works for all of us. Right now, that’s a stretch. I am grateful to have excellent Medicare coverage. My sense is that our health insurance coverage landscape is fragile, like our natural landscape here. However, it may not be as vibrant or sustainable as is our natural one. In my research and planning work over the years, I’ve seen a growing level of need in New Mexico with increasing gaps in our healthcare services, provider shortages, and challenges with access to care. PHS is a large, anchor system that has a deep commitment to the people of New Mexico, and to building a social determinant-based healthcare system that works. NMCC  provides excellent, extremely responsive and well-integrated care as well as music in the space and a Gallery with a Cause. That all matters. 

We face challenges with healthcare workforce recruitment and retention in New Mexico. We’ve lost rural providers to larger systems, hub cities, surrounding states, and national opportunities. We struggle to maintain specialists and critical access hospitals, especially outside of our metro areas. With our small population stretched over a very large state, high poverty levels, small numbers of covered lives (people insured), salary levels, and more, we have an uphill climb. We have a lot of healthcare and public health system development work to do, and we can. Every time one of us has a positive experience, let’s shout it out, as our healthcare workers need that affirmation, and we all need to know what’s working. When we have problems with care, let’s report it and push for improvements at programmatic, system, policy, and funding levels.   

Together, we can build on what works for accessible, quality healthcare for all. Si se puede.