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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A Texas company and the University of New Mexico may team up with a hospital in Gallup to expand medical care in an area of northwestern New Mexico and northeastern Arizona that is one of the poorest regions of the country.

However, months of negotiations are yet to come before it will be decided whether there'll be an affiliation between the university, Plano, Texas-based LHP Hospital Group and Rehoboth McKinley Christian Health Care Services, The Albuquerque Journal (http://bit.ly/14XgoXS) reported.

Rehoboth operates a 69-bed hospital in Gallup and is seeking an affiliation to help maintain and expand its services.

According to Rehoboth, its hospital handled nearly 11,000 emergency room visits in the first six months of 2013, a period when the nonprofit had a net operating income of only about $31,000.

Spokeswoman Ina Burmeister said the hospital needs capital and specialty physicians, prompting its search for an affiliation.

"More and more smaller hospitals are affiliating around the country," she said. "The reality is, in rural settings, having enough providers is a challenge."

Privately owned LHP specializes in joint ventures with not-for-profit hospitals, spokeswoman Pat Ball said.

The company has formed joint ventures with six hospitals in Idaho, Florida, New Jersey and Texas since it began in 2008, Ball said.

The three entities contemplating the Gallup affiliation are drawing up a letter of intent that will allow them to share financial information and take other steps that could lead to a joint venture, Ball said.

Under the possible arrangement, LHP would provide management expertise and access to capital while UNM Health Systems would contribute medical expertise, Ball said.

UNM Health Systems and LHP responded jointly to Rehoboth's February request for proposals for an affiliation with a large health system, Ball said.

At the time, Rehoboth said it "faces significant challenges as an independent hospital striving to adopt to national and local challenges in the way healthcare is delivered and reimbursed."

Rehoboth's board of trustees selected the LHP/UNM proposal in July.

The UNM regents cleared the way for negotiations by voting July 27 to allow UNM Health Systems to engage in regional and local hospital affiliations.

Health Sciences Center Chancellor Paul Roth said last week that UNM is "in the earliest of all possible discussions" about the joint venture.

UNM Health Systems already has various relationships with hospitals around the state, including some in which students and residents rotate through hospitals under supervision of the medical staff.

Other relationships include providing staff to the veterans hospital in Albuquerque and owning and operating a facility in Sandoval County.

 

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