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LAS CRUCES – The city has its first new general hospital in 17 years, and it aims to serve a geographically and economically disadvantaged area of the city.

The brand-new Three Crosses Regional Hospital, on Samaritan Drive off North Main Street, opened its doors to the public Wednesday. The facility is a full-service acute care hospital and boasts 36 patient beds, four surgical suites, 10 intensive care unit beds, 10 post-op and 10 pre-op beds and a 10-bed emergency room.

A medical office building still under construction will include ambulatory services, such as outpatient surgery, and physician offices. At its height, the hospital could employ more than 200 people.

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Administrator and Chief Clinical Officer Cindy Slaydon said the hospital is a $120 million undertaking. She said people interested in working at the hospital began reaching out before the opening was publicized and said the hospital has received inquiries from more than 1,000 people locally and in other states.

The main hospital includes diagnostic imaging services, labs and an Interventional Cardiology and Heart Program. Pediatrics and obstetrics are two services that are not offered at Three Crosses, but the hospital said it will be able to transfer patients to local providers if needed.

A future expansion of the medical campus could include an assisted living center, an urgent care center, physician medical offices, day care, a transitional rehabilitation hospital and a dialysis center.

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Three Crosses Regional Hospital on Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. (Photo: Nathan J Fish/Sun-News)

Three years in the making

The hospital began construction in 2017 and would have originally opened in late May or early June. Due to the pandemic, the opening was delayed four months.

Slaydon said the federal government seized supplies and equipment to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, and other supply chains were disrupted.

“The hard part was, they had to take care of the existing hospitals first. So for us to order supplies and things to come in, we kind of got pushed to the bottom,” Slaydon said. “Which is understandable.”

But Slaydon said the state has been very supportive of the opening.

The Sun-News toured the new facility Oct. 2 while construction crews strolled through some of the rooms and halls and worked to put final touches on the hospital. Drills were also being performed for the various types of situations that may arise in a hospital, such as a fight in the cafeteria, to name one.

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A rustic porte-cochère greets patients as they arrive. Murals of local plants and flowers that signify healing adorn numerous walls, and the front lobby is reminiscent of a hotel. The facility exudes hospitality.

“It looks like a resort, and that’s on purpose,” Dr. Karl Koerper, Chief of Staff for Three Crosses, said.

The resort design is not only meant to ease the anxiety of patients visiting the hospital, but also create a welcoming environment for staff.

“These people work long hours,” said Bob Pofahl, a developer and one of four general partners in the hospital. “So part of the idea is to create an environment where people enjoy working.”

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The lobby of Three Crosses Regional Hospital on Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. (Photo: Nathan J Fish/Sun-News)

The hospital and medical office building sit on 15 acres of the former Las Cruces Country Club, which closed in 2011, and were recently proposed to be included in a 91-acre, developer-driven tax increment development district. The agreement between the developer and the City of Las Cruces fell through in August, but it could be revived after talks this week.

The development deal proposed to erect retail, entertainment, several types of housing and office space around the medical campus.

While developer and majority landowner Zach Wiegert withdrew his TIDD application in August and said he was unsure what would happen to the land, documents provided by hospital administration still paint a picture of a coming mixed-use development.

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A new beginning

Three Crosses had its “soft opening” Oct. 7. That means while services are now available, interested patients should be aware that the hospital is not in the position to accept nearly any insurance yet.

The licensing process is still underway. Slaydon said once the facility admits 10 people for inpatient care, they’ll undergo a surprise assessment by the state for a final hospital license. That will move the facility toward getting a Medicare certification, which will later allow the hospital to accept Medicaid and private insurance.

So even once Three Crosses has a full clinical hospital license, many patients won’t immediately have their care covered there. In the meantime, Slaydon said there could be single case agreements to cover some patients’ procedures.

After a few weeks, Slaydon said, more insurance options will hopefully be available with the goal of covering most patients.

Koerper said Three Crosses is special because it will be run by physicians, not corporate administrators, which he thinks will translate to better care for patients.

The general partners “basically turned over the keys” to the physicians, Koerper said, entrusting them to run it.

The hospital said patient care is decided by a local governance board “whose members are physicians by majority, and not a distant corporate hierarchy in another city.”

Also, Koerper said physicians at Three Crosses will be allowed to practice at other hospitals.

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The hospital administration said the location is unique because it’s more centrally located for some Las Crucens and county residents west of Interstate 25, who before had few options besides Memorial Medical Center and MountainView Regional Medical Center on the east side of town.

While the hospital said it wants to compete with the other big two in town on quality of care, Three Crosses also said it only aims to capture 10 percent of the local health care market and “raise the standard for quality of care in Southern New Mexico.”

Michael McDevitt is a city and county government reporter for the Sun-News. He can be reached at 575-202-3205, [email protected] or @MikeMcDTweets on Twitter.

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