A healthcare study group will be missing a key party: Santa Fe's largest healthcare provider.

That's because top brass at the provider, Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, did an about-face.

Hospital administrators have declined to participate in a study group established by city councilors last year whose purpose is to bring the community together to talk about the delivery of healthcare services by Northern New Mexico's largest hospital and other local providers in a changing healthcare landscape.

Councilors approved a measure calling for the committee, introduced by Peter Ives and Patti Bushee, in February 2014 under the administration of former Mayor David Coss. 
The balance on the group between hospital administrators and members with District 1199 New Mexico of the National Union of Hospital and Healthcare Employees, the union that represents nurses and other hospital workers, became a point of contention during the council debate on the resolution. So too did the group's focus. Union officials preferred to examine the hospital's delivery of care. Hospital administrators preferred to examine the impact of national and statewide healthcare policy trends on local healthcare delivery. 

"What we would like to get out of it is very straightforward," said David Delgado, president of the hospital board of directors at the time. "One is to better educate the community as it relates to the changing landscape. Two: Have an open dialogue between all the providers in relation to how we all lean on each other to essentially address the [Affordable Care Act] and the goals of the ACA—which are very positive."

Yet in a Feb. 17 letter to the mayor obtained Thursday by SFR, Christus St. Vincent CEO Bruce Tassin writes that "so much has happened in the year since" City Council passed the resolution that created the committee, and that instead of joining the group, administrators would "like to instead propose a partnership with the city that focuses on growing and retaining a high skilled workforce for our community."

"Given the current healthcare landscape," Tassin writes, "we prefer to focus our limited resources and time on growing and retaining local talent."

Last October, hospital administrators and the union

a three-year collective bargaining agreement that appeared to quell tensions between the parties about

at the hospital. 

Yet the relationship quickly soured after the hospital's

of a top union nurse as well as the union's contention that the hospital administration is not following the terms of the contract. Union officials also allege hospital administrators are failing to retain full-time nurses for its workforce—and are rather relying on contract traveling nurses brought in temporarily from other communities and states. Administrators deny the allegations that it retaliated against the union nurse in firing her and say the mechanisms to track staffing levels of nurses are complex. 

"I feel I am not respected," says Sharon Argenbright, a clinical nurse at Christus St. Vincent's, as well as the union's executive vice president. "I’ll put it that way. I feel like my administration does not care about me...Yet that’s our job—to care [for] other people. So how long can you keep caring when no one cares about you? When administration doesn’t care about you?"Argenbright, a appointee to the group, adds that she looks forward to using it "to discuss what’s going on so we have a louder voice so people get treated with respect—so they don’t leave."

"We are aware of the study group," Christus St. Vincent Spokesman Arturo Delgado writes in a prepared statement. "Given where we are today, we'd like to instead focus on our limited resources and time on growing and retaining local talent."

The original resolution called on the mayor to make appointments to the committee, including a Christus St. Vincent board representative; a member of a nonprofit that supports the hospital; its vice president of community health; and its chief medical officer. Likewise it called on four members of District 1199 New Mexico. Other appointees included county commissioners, city councilors, and other healthcare representatives not tied to Christus St. Vincent.

The resolution called on the mayor to make appointments to the group. Mayor Javier Gonzales, more than a year after taking office, finally recommended appointees in the council's April 29 meeting. Included in his

approved by the council on April 29 is Coss—who rallied alongside the union during contract negotiations during his mayoral tenure—as a consumer representative. 

The resolution states the committee shall seek to "better understand the capability" of the hospital to "continue to provide safe, effective and efficient health care services in the context of recent and evolving regulation of the healthcare industry."

It calls on the group to make findings based on community forums about how federal and statewide healthcare policy changes, like the Affordable Care Act, impact healthcare delivery locally.

The group, states the resolution, is to conclude its public meetings and duties eight months after the the appointment of its members. It's then to issue a final report to city councilors.