Socorro General Hospital’s Chief Hospital Executive told the Socorro County commission how SGH uses the approximately $1 million the institution receives from the mill levy.
Cathy Cook | El Defensor Chieftain


Presbyterian Health Services family practice in Socorro is not accepting new patients because the service has so many open positions for doctors and registered nurses. The Socorro County Commissioners heard an update on Socorro General Hospital and Presbyterian Health Services at their regular meeting.

Chief Hospital Executive Veronica Pound gave an update on how the hospital mill levy funds are used by Socorro General Hospital and Presbyterian Healthcare Services. The Board also approved the distribution of approximately $200,000 in third quarter hospital mill levy funds, which are set to be distributed in September.

The hospital receives $1 million from the mill levy, which is used to offset the cost of indigent care provided at the hospital. The hospital spends a total of $1.5 million on financial assistance for patients, said Pound.

The hospital’s outpatient program is growing, said Pound. The hospital has approximately 9,000 emergency room visits per year, 500 in-patient discharges and delivers 120 babies per year.

One wing is still set aside for COVID-19 patients and COVID-19 testing is still available. The hospital also offers monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID patients. Pfizer vaccines are available by appointment at the clinic.

The hospital is facing challenges in family medicine, said Pound. Five providers have retired or moved out of state and there are 10 openings for registered nurses. The family practice service is not taking on any new patients at the moment, which is a challenge for the community, said Pound.

In a separate matter, the board accepted a restructuring proposal that is part of a large opioid settlement with Purdue Pharma.

Socorro County is one of many municipalities in a class-action lawsuit against companies that manufacture opioids. The lawsuit includes higher population states like New York and smaller municipalities, including several counties in New Mexico.

Purdue is declaring bankruptcy and restructuring. As part of that restructuring, a trust will be set up to distribute settlement funds to different municipalities involved in the lawsuit that have been impacted by the opioid epidemic. A majority of the municipalities need to approve the restructuring for it to go forward. County Manager Michael Hawkes said it will probably be several months before the county government learns if the restructuring is going forward. It will probably be three to five years before settlements can be made with the other opioid manufacturers. Many of them are also trying to claim bankruptcy.

The county has suffered tremendously due to the opioid epidemic, said Hawkes. The services the county provides, like law enforcement and social services, have been tied up addressing the needs of people who have become addicted to opioids, preventing the county from using its resources to provide other services.

In other business, the Board was split on whether or not to continue a finance advisory committee that gives recommendations to County Treasurer Rose Mary Rosas. The committee has no decision-making authority but gives the county treasurer financial advice on a weekly basis. Commissioner Glen Duggins wants to eliminate the finance advisory committee because he feels the treasurer should be coming to the board for advice instead of a separate advisory committee. Rosas is in her first term and said she would like to continue having the advisory committee as a sounding board. The board was tied in a two to two vote to eliminate the committee, with one member abstaining.

Duggins was also upset that the county is no longer using a Socorro-based bank, First National, for one of its accounts. The county shifted some of its banking to a bank in Santa Fe for better interest rates. Duggins took issue with placing county funds in a financial institution outside of Socorro, but Hawkes pointed out that the treasurer has a legal obligation to make choices that most benefit the county financially.

The next commission meeting will be July 27 at 10 a.m. in the County Annex building.

Cathy Cook, El Defensor Chieftain