Hidalgo Medical Services is in its second incarnation as a community health center. Its first run at primary care began in the early 1980s, as a “free-standing” National Health Service Corps site in a trailer behind the closed hospital in Lordsburg. In those days, the federal government would assign physicians, physician assistants and other health professionals with an obligation to repay their education scholarships to Health Professional Shortage Areas. After a few years of success, the “Corps” providers left and because of changes in federal policy, no replacements were forthcoming. As a result, between the years of 1986 and 1995, there were no providers in Hidalgo County outside of Playas a Phelps Dodge-owned Copper smelter town.
In 1994, the Hidalgo County government applied for and received funds from the NM Department of Health, Primary Care Bureau to renew efforts to establish health care in the area. The $35,000 in funds allowed the county to hire a clinic director and support staff to begin developing the infrastructure for service delivery. In late 1994, the Department of Health, Rural Health Office staff (Charlie Alfero) and the Director of the Family and Community Medicine Department at UNM traveled to Lordsburg with two family practice residents to discuss how everyone could work together to initiate services in Lordsburg.
On July 1, 1995, Hidalgo Medical Services (HMS), opened its doors in a wing of the old hospital and began providing services, utilizing four physicians (including the two UNM residents) from Silver City, Southwest Family Medicine. Each one rotated to Lordsburg one day every other week. So with a humble two day per week clinic in Lordsburg, the Hidalgo County government in collaboration with the newly reformed board of directors of HMS, began its journey. The mission of HMS at the time: Recruit a physician for Hidalgo County.
Still only state funded, in 1996 the county turned the reigns of the clinic over to HMS entirely and more significantly, continued to provide HMS with facilities and financial support. That fall, a full-time family nurse practitioner was hired and the community formed the Hidalgo County Health Consortium. The latter was and is significant in that it has provided a planning basis for much of the development of HMS over the years.
Around that time, HMS obtained a contract with the Border Health Office of the Department of Health to provide “Promotora” or Community Health Worker services in support of community development, diabetes outreach and other supportive services.
In the spring of 1997, with assistance from the UNM Office of Rural Outreach, HMS applied for federal funds to both the Community Health Center program and the federal Office of Rural Health Policy, Rural Health Outreach grant program. Both of these were funded on October 1, 1997. This development provided the resources to expand HMS clinical services and provide the financial support necessary to develop administrative capacity and enhance the functional relationship with UNM.
The next few years were spent on site and program development activities. Consistent with the HMS strategic plan, a clinic was opened in Animas at the public school, mental health, tele-radiology and family support services were added. Plans were developed to design, finance and build a new health center in Lordsburg. And in 2001, the financing package for the facility was finalized, thanks to a community-wide effort. Hidalgo County, with help from Senator John Arthur Smith, obtained statutory changes in the NM Hospital Funding Act to impose a local tax to support facility construction. Lordsburg City government saw through a referendum for the same purpose. HMS obtained a federal grant through US Senator Jeff Bingaman’s Office and a state Primary Care Capital Fund loan from the NM Finance Authority and the Department of Health, and in the summer of 2003, HMS opened its doors in a brand new 22,000 sq. ft. facility that houses 6 dental exam rooms, 9 medical exams, mental health service space, public health office space, and a expanded Family Support program.
Simultaneously, in 2001 HMS began an effort to expand its delivery system into Grant County consistent with its strategic plan directions to provide more comprehensive service to its patients including in-patient care and delivery services. After a competitive review process by the grant County Community Health Council to determine the best partner for primary care service delivery, federal funds were requested to expand the Community Health Center grant. In July of 2002, HMS purchased Med Square Clinic in Silver City, the high school located clinic in Bayard was obtained in August and the Mimbres Valley clinic in November of the same year.
That same year, HMS expanded its “Promotora” program into a full fledged Family Support Department. Family Support services are available in or near every HMS location and are an integral part of assuring health and education services are available in every community.
In 2003, HMS obtained support for the school-based clinic at Silver High School, and in 2004 a clinic was added in the Cliff / Gila area.
Currently, HMS operates 7 facilities in Grant and Hidalgo Counties. In Lordsburg and at Med Square Clinic in Silver City, HMS provides comprehensive primary care services, a moderate complexity lab and x-ray dental services, mental health services and family support. At all other locations HMS currently has over a hundred staff and a budget in excess of $6 million. The success of HMS can be attributed to a number of people and organizations including:
I. Health Plan
A. Site Development: To increase the quantity of services provided by HMS.
B. Program Development: To increase the quality of services provided by HMS.
C. Clinical Services Enhancements
II. Business Plan
A. Integrated Management Systems
B. Governance Training and Evaluation
C. Performance Improvement Processes
D. Implement a Comprehensive Development Plan
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