GALLUP, N.M. (KRQE) – A New Mexico hospital facing staffing shortages and in financial trouble, reportedly shut down its labor and delivery unit. Now the CEO of Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital in Gallup is speaking out about changes on the way, after what he’s calling years of mismanagement.

At the town hall meeting this weekend, hospital staff say they recently unionized to have greater job security when they speak up about patient care issues.

One nurse at the town hall meeting Saturday in Gallup explains why she resigned from RMCHCS. “Last fall the nurses again raised concerns over dangerously low staffing levels. We provided the background on our department and some of the struggles over the year. We were not heard,” Sara Pikaart shares. 

Dr. Caleb Lauber is the former Chief of Staff of RMCHCS. He says the Community Hospital Corporation eliminated his position. As KRQE News 13 reported this summer, the hospital recently cut 80 jobs because of its financial situation. “A set of things had occurred once the terminations have started. The OB department was in jeopardy and now as you know no longer exists,” says Dr. Lauber. 

But in an emailed statement to KRQE News 13, hospital CEO Don Smithberg, says the hospital plans on reopening its labor and delivery unit in a few weeks, installing a long-overdue nurse call system,  finalizing a new electronic medical records system, and continuing what he’s calling aggressive recruitment and retention efforts. 

Physicians say they just unionized last week. Mary Poel is a pediatrician at RMCHCS. She explains, “We’re in the union to make sure that our patients are safe and make sure that we have the personnel that we need to meet the needs of the community.”

Others in the community say more needs to be done. City Councilor Linda Garcia says, “Us as councilors, commissioners, we need to get our state representatives involved, we need to get the state involved in having quality care in Gallup that we deserve.”

The city’s mayor also spoke at the town hall meeting. Councilor Garcia said she wants more community meetings as a form of hospital oversight. 

Full Statement from Don Smithburg, I-President/CEO, Rehoboth McKinley Christian Health Care Services:

“We appreciate the community’s passion and commitment to ensuring RMCHCS remains a vital health care resource and economic driver for Gallup. We share this passion, which is why new leadership with deep professional experience was recruited to help stabilize the organization.

We will continue our intense focus on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Right now, that means stabilizing the hospital’s financial outlook and quality assurance programs after years of mismanagement.  Plus, reopening our labor and deliver unit in a few weeks, installation of a long overdue nurse call system, finalizing our new electronic medical records system, and continuing our aggressive recruitment and retention efforts in the face of a national staff shortage.

For more than a century, the people who work in this hospital have cared for the unique needs of the Gallup community. Now, we’re poised to build on this history as we make plans for the next 100 years.

True transformation takes hard work and sacrifice. Be assured that the RMCHCS board and leadership team are committed to staying the course.”