AC troubles at Gallup hospital create dangerous environment for patients and employees

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GALLUP, N.M. — Only two months after KOB 4 reported on serious financial troubles at Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital, patients and employees are claiming the hospital’s heating and cooling system is broken.

“The lobby thermostat was clocking at 93 degrees,” said Jaylyn Hinkley, a patient recently treated for COVID-19 at RMCH. “I was sitting in there with a fever with other people that were experiencing illness, and we were sitting in a room that has no ventilation, that has no open windows.”

Hinkley said conditions did not improve after she got to her room.

“Even with the fans on and the bay door open, which is the only door to the outside from the ER, my room that they put me in was 87 degrees.”

Another patient, Frederic Held, M.D., said he had a similar experience this month when he overheard one of his nurses equating her experience in the ICU to doing hot yoga.

Hospital officials told KOB this has only been an issue since Wednesday, and they have already fixed the problem.

A RMCHCS representative sent the following statement:

“The chiller went down early morning of Wednesday, June 22. Technicians made repairs to the chiller and it was back online around 11 a.m. Our plant operations department is working through a phased plan to make improvements to the HVAC system. From time to time, we do experience warmer than normal temperatures but continue to provide safe health care to our patients.”

During the most recent McKinley County Commission meeting, worried community members said these problems go back to the beginning of the year.

“Back in February, it was stated that there was a solution and a quote for the fixing the HVAC system, and the intention was for it to be fixed before the hot summer months,” one woman said during the public comment portion of the meeting Tuesday evening.

She went on to say, “staff that we have spoken to have been told that, quote, ‘The issue has been fixed,’ or, ‘That’s just the way it is,’ and it doesn’t seem that they have any real understanding of what the problem actually is or have any timeline for its remedy.”

Board Chairman Billy Moore argued that the pandemic has made it hard to order a new system, or any supplies for that matter.

“Most supplies are anywhere from 30 days to a year and a half,” he told KOB 4. “I recently ordered a new truck, and they told me it’d be 2023 before I could get it.”

Commissioner Moore also said $850,000 dollars have been approved for a whole new HVAC system, which is supposed to be installed right away.

Back in April, he said the hospital was down to its final two weeks of cash on hand, but claims it is in a much better financial position today. He added that the hospital had been waiting on reimbursements from the federal government, and the county set up a loan agreement with a local bank for the hospital.

He said the issues with RMCH are not going away overnight, but between hospital leadership and McKinley County, things are moving forward.