ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – At a news conference Friday morning, former First Choice Community Healthcare (FCCH) employees raised concerns about the future of the healthcare provider. “I am very worried about my patients in particular, and all of the patients at First Choice,” said Jesse Barnes, former FCCH employee.

Current and former employees are now pushing for unionization after repeated accusations about mismanagement and financial irresponsibility. They also say FCCH leadership has shown continued retaliation against those who have spoken out about problems surrounding the healthcare provider.

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Former employees say FCCH has cut nearly 20% of all healthcare providers throughout their facilities. Repeated reports have now gotten the attention of Albuquerque medical leaders.

“There was some big alarms,” said Dr. Nate Roybal, President of the Greater Albuquerque Medical Association. “There was some retaliatory actions taken against some of the providers who are trying to clean up some of the problems they were having.”

There is concern that the health care company could potentially shut down, possibly leaving thousands of doctors. FCCH gives primary care to around 50,000 patients, mostly low-income or those with limited insurance.

Recent reports said the company has seen five different CEOs come and go over the last three years. The numerous complaints have now gotten the Attorney General’s Office involved. The Attorney General’s Office has since written a letter asking the New Mexico Department of Health to conduct an investigation into the complaints.

“Unless we have some major changes in the governance of First Choice and the management, we won’t be able to continue all the services and the richness of care that we’re able to provide to our patients,” said Dr. Caryn McHarney Brown, a former FCCH employee.

First Choice Community Health Care provided a statement to KRQE News 13 about the Attorney General’s recent letter. An attorney for the company criticized the claims, in part, saying the company is on track for more patient visits this year compared to 2022.

Unfortunately, the foundation of the Attorney General’s letter is so factually flawed that it cannot be adequately addressed without engaging in the time-consuming job of obtaining the source and basis of the Attorney General’s allegations and opinions. For example, the letter does not accurately state the number of FCCH providers, the number of patients served and incorrectly claims FCCH provides pharmacy and laboratory services that could be disrupted should “FCCH fail.”

Correcting issues that have long-plagued FCCH will take time. At first blush, it is ironic that FCCH’s efforts to address those issues are also subject of criticism by the Attorney General. FCCH continues its commitment to providing quality care to those it serves. FCCH is on track to complete 196,800 patient visits, up 8 percent from 2022, and is adding four new medical providers, two new dental providers and one new behavioral health provider in the next several weeks.

Lorna Wiggins, Attorney for First Choice Community Health Care