Morning Word

Presbyterian Health Will Outsource Santa Fe ER Starting Next Month

NEA awards more than $300,00 to Santa Fe arts groups

Presbyterian will outsource Santa Fe health services next month

The Albuquerque Journal reports Presbyterian Health Services’ emergency department and hospitalist staffing at its Santa Fe Medical Center will be run by a private equity-backed staffing company starting next month. New Mexico Health Resources Executive Director Jerry Harrison tells the Journal while such outsourcing is happening around the country—and at Presbyterian’s Rust Medical Center in Rio Rancho—the decision to contract with the for-profit Sound Physicians for the Santa Fe facility carries weight and is “a reflection of the introduction of Wall Street into health care.” Reportedly, a dozen doctors at Presbyterian Santa Fe Medical Center received notice months ago about the shift, with the option to sign contracts with the Tacoma, Washington-based Sound Physicians. That company paid $14.5 million in 2013 to settle allegations that it over-billed Medicare and other federal health care programs. Presbyterian Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Johnson tells the Journal in a statement the hospital “like many hospitals across our state and nation [uses] staffing agencies and external partners in our facilities to ensure that the community has access to care when they need it most.” Kaiser Health News reported last month on the rising concerns among emergency room doctors about hospitals contracting with private equity-backed companies, along with pending litigation about the practice’s legality.

NEA awards Santa Fe arts

The National Endowment for the Arts this week announced its first round of awards for the 2023 fiscal year, with 19 New Mexico arts organization receiving funding—12 of them in Santa Fe. The Santa Fe Opera received the largest grant, $70,000, to support a new production of composer Antonín Dvorák’s opera Rusalka this summer—the first work by Dvorák to be presented at the opera. Other Santa Fe grant recipients include Indigenousways, which received $30,000 for the IndigenousWays Festival; the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, which also received $30,000 for its annual festival, which will include world premiere performances from composers such as Charlotte Bray, Ryan Chase, Magnus Lindberg and Christopher Stark; and the Santa Fe Art Institute, which received $25,000 for its Changing Climate thematic artist residency program. “Federal funding for the arts is critical to increase support and access for underrepresented artists, especially in a region with limited institutional resources,” SFAI Jamie Blosser tells SFR in a statement. “We are grateful to be acknowledged by the NEA for the work we do and excited to support over 60 local, national and international artists as part of our 2023 Changing Climate Thematic Residency program!” All told, New Mexico organizations received a total of $485,000 in funds; Santa Fe received $325,000. Nationally, the NEA awarded more than $34 million. The awards also include grants to individuals for Literature Fellowships in creative writing (poetry) and translation. In Santa Fe, poet and Institute of American Indian Arts Associate Professor Anne Haven McDonnell received $25,000. “Together, these grants show the NEA’s support nationwide for strengthening our arts and cultural ecosystems, providing equitable opportunities for arts participation and practice and contributing to the health of our communities and our economy,” NEA Chair Maria Rosario Jackson said in a statement. “I encourage everyone to explore these projects and the ways they help provide inspiration, understanding, and opportunities for us to live more artful lives.”

New PRC holds first meeting

The three new members of the Public Regulation Commission held their first meeting yesterday, focused primarily on introductions and administrative decisions. They are: Commissioners Gabriel Aguilera and Patrick O’Connell, whom Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham nominated last month, and Commissioner James F. Ellison, whom the governor nominated earlier this week after her previous nominee resigned. As Ellison has not taken the oath of office, he attended the meeting via Zoom but did not vote on matters related to the commission. O’Connell, a registered professional engineer, previously worked as the clean energy program deputy director at Western Resource Advocates, and at Public Service Company of New Mexico as an integrated resource planning director and senior natural gas supply planner. “I’m thrilled to have this opportunity for public service for the state of New Mexico,” O’Connell said in a statement. “I’ve dedicated my career to working in and around the utilities that provide the services that are regulated by the PRC. The work we do here at the PRC is crucial to making sure that those fundamentally important things happen in a way that all of us can afford it and is there when we need it.” Aguilera spent 15 years in multiple positions at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, DC, where he focused on western electric issues. Ellison held multiple positions at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque. All three have the requisite educational requirements the new appointed-versus-elected PRC commissioner positions require, unlike Brian K. Moore, who resigned earlier this week over his lack of sufficient educational credentials. The next open meeting of the PRC is scheduled for 9:30 am, Jan. 18.

NM art recovered

Boulder Police earlier this week recovered $400,000 worth of stolen art, including three Taos Society of Artists paintings that had been en route to Santa Fe when they were stolen. The three paintings, “View of the Taos Pueblo” by Joseph Henry Sharp, “Taos Pueblo at Night” by Eanger Irving Couse and “Laguna Pueblo” by Ernest Martin Hennings had sold recently during the Bonhams auction of the collection of G. Andrew Bjurman, a collector of Southwestern art. According to a news release from the Boulder Police, a tip last Saturday night led a patrol officer to a hotel in the City of Lakewood. Boulder and Lakewood police then coordinated to search the room where they found all the stolen artwork—“intact”—along with other stolen items such as handguns and electronics. They also recovered nearly 2,000 fentanyl pills and 23 grams of methamphetamine. Police arrested Brandon Camacho-Levine, 31, on multiple charges, including felony theft. Anyone with any information about this crime is still asked to call Detective R. Montano-Banda at (303) 441-1906 reference case 22-12364. Couse-Sharp Historic Site Executive Director Davison Koenig told the Taos News the theft “created quite a buzz in our art world…we even had Bonhams Auctions contact us to, you know, keep our ear to the ground, in case we see hear anything because it’s a small art world.”

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported Jan. 11: New cases: 247; 661,843 total cases. Deaths: four; Santa Fe County has had 380 total deaths; 8,863 total fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 89. Patients on ventilators: one

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent Jan. 5 “community levels” map shows just one county categorized as “yellow”—medium risk—for COVID-19: San Juan County. The rest of the state—including Santa Fe County—is green, aka has low risk. Corresponding recommendations for each level can be found here.

Resources: Receive four free at-home COVID-19 tests per household via; Check availability for additional free COVID-19 tests through Project ACT; CDC interactive booster eligibility tool; NM DOH vaccine & booster registration; CDC isolation and exposure interactive tool; COVID-19 treatment info; NMDOH immunocompromised tool kit. People seeking treatment who do not have a medical provider can call NMDOH’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-855-600-3453. DOH encourages residents to download the NM Notify app and to report positive COVID-19 home tests on the app.

You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.

Listen up

CBS News correspondent John Blackstone visits New Mexico—Roswell, specifically—to report on the company Sceye’s quest to use High Altitude Platform Stations (HAPS) to bring internet connectivity to under-and un-served areas in the state and beyond. But the technology—airships outfitted with sensors, cameras and broadband antennae—could have even more applications, Sceye CEO and founder Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen tells CBS, and help tackle human trafficking, ocean conservation and early detection of wildfires, among other issues. Frandsen also thinks the giant silver airships will one day be as common a sight in the sky as ships in ports, cars on roads and trains on the tracks.

Hot topics

Crews fully extinguished a grass fire in Mora County on Tuesday before yesterday’s winds picked up. Still: fire, wind, Mora County—it was hard not to swiftly remember last spring’s devastating wildfire season. One key difference: this week’s fire reportedly started due to a downed power line. The Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon fires began as a result of controlled burns by the US Forest Service. Nonetheless, the conditions that turned the fire into New Mexico’s largest in history remain: drought and climate change. In fact, Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist Adam Atchley had been scheduled to discuss those very topics last May as part of the LANL’s Frontier in Science lecture series when the Cerro Pelado Fire derailed his event. That free lecture takes place at 5:30 pm this evening at the New Mexico Museum of Art (107 W Palace Ave.) and tomorrow in Los Alamos. SFR spoke with Atchley last spring about the modeling work LANL scientists are doing to incorporate the realities of climate change into prescribed and controlled burn programs. “We built these past models based on what we call empirical data. And that’s basically observations that we’ve made in the past,” Atchley said. “Because of climate change, we’re now outside of a calibration or validation range of the models and sometimes that means that the models aren’t able to predict what’s going to happen when you have something like these wildfires.”

Winter wonderland

Wind and fire notwithstanding, Santa Fe remains popular in the national travel media. Female-centric lifestyle digital media company Brit & Co includes us in its “Best Places to Visit in 2023″ assemblage and suggests readers “venture out west to Santa Fe, New Mexico and breathe that fresh mountain air while immersing yourself in local artisan culture.” Examples of said local artisan culture: the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and Meow Wolf, natch. Phoenix magazine also includes Santa Fe on its winter travel destination list, noting that while those seeking winter sports on a winter trip can ski and snowboard affordably at Ski Santa Fe, the city makes a great choice for those who “have zero idea how to respond when a snowsuit-outfitted stranger with Oakley goggles asks, ‘How’s the mountain today?’” and offers “a pleasing cluster of warm-toned adobe architecture with nooks for reading, fireplaces for snuggling and hot food—in temperature and spice—for chilly days.” The story recommends spending time at several of our favorite spots: Collected Works Bookstore, Kakawa Chocolate House and The Shed, for instance, and has particularly high praise for CrashMurderBusiness: “Describing it as a coffeeshop would be a disservice. It’s an elixir lab where concoctions like espresso, gingerbread syrup, cardamom bitters and whipped cream get fun names like Celebration of Polar Bears.”

Wind down

The National Weather Service forecasts a cool but less windy day: sunny, with a high temperature near 42 degrees; northwest wind 5 to 10 mph. We should have some pleasant January weather starting tomorrow through Saturday, with another storm system moving in Saturday night.

Thanks for reading! The Word would like to see all the paintings and photographs in Harper magazine’s most recent gallery up close and personal.

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