Doctor shortage continues in New Mexico: What are the next steps?
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It seems like New Mexico lawmakers have been trying everything they can think of to get more doctors to come to the state.
During the last legislative session, they passed a bill to fast-track licenses for doctors who want to move here. But it will already be the next legislative session before those rules could be in place.
The changes passed unanimously inside a bill that dealt with licenses for social workers and veterinarians. The fact that lawmakers stuck it in the bill and it passed unanimously sheds light on how important it is to them to get doctors in New Mexico.
However, the bill requires the state medical board to create the rules to get that done. That’s been holding up the process.
Last month, the board postponed the rule changes. Professional groups for doctors and hospitals are worried about a couple of provisions.
First, the board wants to be able to give some doctors a competency examination. That’s a safety measure, but the doctors’ group says it’s next to impossible to give that test within the 30-day window that the law envisions for quick licenses.
The second issue is that lawmakers and doctors are worried the rules won’t actually speed up a process that can take six months or more to license an out-of-state doctor.
“It always takes longer than we hope for bills to go into action,” Rep. Natalie Figueroa said. “It is always slower than we want it to be. So we wanted… the hope was to have more doctors practicing in New Mexico as soon as possible.”
KOB 4 has confirmed the medical board has scheduled another hearing on the new rules for Feb. 2. That’s during the legislative session, which means it will have been 10 months since senators, representatives, and the governor asked for rules to bring doctors to New Mexico in a hurry.
It appears there’s a solution in the works for that meeting, though. The governor’s spokeswoman signaled they will let the board continue its work instead of passing another law forcing specific language.
“We are not looking to add anything more prescriptive to the session agenda,” Maddy Hayden said. “We certainly would have liked to have seen the process move more quickly.”
The medical board told KOB 4 Friday that it intends to follow the law, but emphasized its commitment to safety.
“The NMMB will continue to apply our primary duty of protection of the public from the improper, unprofessional, incompetent, and unlawful practice of medicine,” the New Mexico Medical Board shared in a statement.
The board also said it plans to take into account the feedback from those professional groups in its new rules.
Rep. Figueroa acknowledged the balance the board has to strike between speed and safety, but said she’s happy it looks like some of that feedback from doctors and hospitals will be taken into account.