By Mary Alice Murphy

The public had an opportunity to comment on applications for Gila Regional Medical Center Emergency Medical Services Equipment at a meeting Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 5, 2021.

Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments Priscilla Lucero opened the session and explained that the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a funding opportunity, Emergency Rural Health Care grants for hospitals.

The release included two tracks. Track 1 is for equipment and vehicles. Track 2 is for long-term sustainability of rural hospitals.

"We are only applying for Track 1, with two applications," Lucero said. "The first is for equipment, up to $1 million. Because there is a 20 percent match on the grant portion, the hospital will use $250,000 of its capital outlay received in 2021. The capital outlay was allocated for medical equipment, so it will be used to leverage the USDA grant."

he said the second application is for the purchase of two new ambulances with extrication tools. The request is for $547,000 out of federal funds, with the match to be paid with EMS local fire excise tax funds for a total of $604,976.

Lucero said when Eloy Medina, GRMC EMS director, shared with her the ages of the fleet, the project made sense.

She noted that the state of New Mexico has received $3 million in non-competitive dollars that the hospital will apply to first. "If the state doesn't have enough to share with everyone, then the hospital will apply competitively to the federal agencies. As part of the process, we have to solicit public input, so that's why this hearing. Also, the federal agencies want to see the council of governments comprehensive economic development assessment, which we will attach to the application."

Medina spoke. "This project is a good opportunity for us to update the fleet. Some of our ambulances are as old as 1994 models, with 198,000 miles on them. We also have a couple of others that have around 325,000 miles on them. I know diesels are supposed to last longer, but we need a good, safe fleet. It is important for the safety of our patients and our providers."

Lucero noted that one application is from the hospital and the second from EMS.

"At this point we are applying for the state non-competitive dollars," she said. "If we are not successful, we will go into the competitive grant application process."

Lucero said the federal competitive dollars total $500 million.

Manis GRMC Interim Chief Executive Officer Scott Manis said: "For the record, I will speak in support of the EMS application. For the equipment, the focus is on ventilators, operating room equipment and anesthesia machines. Each item is very aged. The equipment is up to and past its end of life. We can't fix them any more, because it is difficult to get parts. These items are also related to Covid. They would have use in respiratory situations, including Covid. With our increase in medical transports and sometimes difficulty in finding places to send patients, it highlights our needs for these equipment purchases. Items for the ambulances, such as the gurney loading help keep our EMS personnel safer. We're very short-staffed across the hospital, so we want to keep people from being out due to injury."

Lucero pointed out that the applications are due October 12. "We expect to submit them by Friday, maybe even on Thursday."

Manis added that at the GRMC Governing Board meeting in August, the members approved applying for the equipment grant up to $1 million, and at the September meeting, they approved the EMS application. "The resolutions that we requested were setting us up for these applications."

After the hearing closed, Lucero noted that the most recent grant to the hospital was an Economic Development Administration grant for the roof replacement, which should begin soon. She said that although the EDA grant is the first grant application she has helped the hospital with, she has been working with GRMC for at least five years or more on capital outlay requests and more recently on American Rescue Plan dollars.

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