New Mexico State University’s longstanding practice of providing on-campus health services for employees ends Friday. The university hasn’t yet finalized a plan to offer another way for employees to receive expedited health services.
That shouldn’t mean employees have to go without medical care. NMSU’s Campus Health Center wasn’t designed to be a primary care facility for employees, but rather a way for them to receive expedited and often cheaper medical services and reduce the use of sick leave for doctor’s visits.
NMSU has been negotiating with a private medical provider, which it has refused to name, to outsource expedited employee medical services. The tentative plan was to bring the private provider on campus to offer medical services for students and employees in the existing Campus Health Center, but that plan fell apart last week when the university decided to continue operating its own health center for students.
Which leaves negotiations about off-campus expedited services for employees up in the air. Monday, Aug. 1, is the first day employees won’t have access to the Campus Health Center.
“We’re still working on a plan to set up a mechanism for employees to be able to get a fast pass to an outside medical provider, but we’re not sure whether or not that’s going to be finalized” by Monday, NMSU spokesman Justin Bannister said. “Those efforts are still underway to negotiate that.”
In the meantime, the university sent a memo to the NMSU community on Thursday telling employees to see alternatives. “For individual health needs, employees are encouraged to seek medical care with their primary care physician or area medical care providers,” the memo states.
The discontinuation of on-campus employee health services means seven NMSU employees, including doctors and nurses, are losing their jobs. Two vacant positions at the Campus Health Center are also being eliminated. Chancellor Garrey Carruthers has said the yet-to-be-named private company will offer jobs to the seven laid-off Campus Health Center staffers as part of the deal being negotiated.
How is NMSU’s decision to not outsource student health services impacting negotiations? It isn’t clear. Operating NMSU’s Campus Health Center, and serving both students and employees, was likely a higher-dollar contract for a private company than offering expedited services to employees at an off-campus clinic.
But Matt Bose, NMSU’s student body president, took issue with the proposal to outsource student health services. Carruthers scrapped the idea after conversations with Bose and others.
Bose said NMSU is still paying off debt from the most recent renovations to the Campus Health Center, so not having control if a private vendor ran the center “was not appealing for students.” In addition, Bose said, students would have paid the same student fees regardless of who ran the health center.
“Students really do enjoy the experience they have when using the Campus Health Center, and the Health Center continues to remain viable even with declining enrollment,” Bose said. “…Right now students receive outstanding
Now that outsourcing student health services is off the table, NMSU is more actively considering merging NMSU’s medical and counseling services for students, which are currently provided by separate entities housed in different buildings.
NMSU is working to address a $12.1 million budget shortfall in the current fiscal year that was caused largely by reductions in state funding and decreased student enrollment. To help balance the budget, the Board of Regents have approved reductions in some employee benefits. Carruthers and many other high-ranking university employees have taken pay cuts that are expected to save $190,000 a year. More than 100 jobs — some filled, some vacant — are being eliminated.
Other cuts and proposed cuts, including those to employee health services, the equestrian team, and the Surveying Engineering program, are part of a requirement that all colleges and administrative divisions reduce their budgets by between 5 and 6.2 percent.