By Thomas Garcia, PNT Staff Writer
New Mexico’s Secretary of Health, Alfredo Vigil, was in Portales on Thursday and Friday looking over the Department of Health offices and speaking with local health care workers.
Vigil was appointed as the Secretary of Health in June 2007. He has since been working with health officials and staff across the state on many of the issues that affect New Mexico’s residents.
Vigil discussed some of the issues and possible solutions.
The biggest problem with health insurance: “About 20 percent of New Mexico’s residents are uninsured. Many of them have to wait till it is an emergency to seek treatment. The cost of their treatment directly affects everyone in the state. The funds used to pay for the treatment of an uninsured patient take away from funding that could be used to pay higher salaries for staff workers, hire new personnel, build new facilities, and purchase new equipment such as ambulances. State officials want to see more people insured.”
The high rates of teen pregnancy in Roosevelt and Curry counties: “I cannot stress enough the need for accurate information and education about high-risk behaviors such as teen pregnancy and drugs. If it was as simple as telling a teenager not to have sex or don’t do drugs, then there would be no problem. … A teenager that has an active interaction with more than three adults that are not their parents, such as a coach, teacher, uncle or aunt is far more likely not to become involved in a high risk-behavior.”
Is there a resurgence of TB in New Mexico with the recent testing in Roosevelt and Curry counties? “The testing was a result of a specific case investigation done by the Department of Health. A health care worker from Albuquerque with active TB came in direct contact with at least 250 high-risk patients from Roosevelt and Curry counties. DOH employees contacted the patients and scheduled testing with them. Most of the patients have tested negative, but the disease develops slowly, so the testing will continue for at least nine months.”
Is New Mexico ready for a pandemic? “We are making preparations …. One of the key factors is preventing the spread of the virus. With all the advancements in travel, someone can very easily contract the virus in California and be in Denver in a matter of hours. If necessary we would look at closing schools and asking non-essential workers to stay home. We have developed large stockpiles of vaccinations for different influenza strains, but the simplest way to prevent a pandemic is to be vaccinated each year.
Expansion or building a new Department of Health facility in Portales: “I visited the offices in Portales, and while they were crowded, they were in a lot better shape them some of the other offices around the state.” The Department of Health is looking at expanding and improving the offices in Portales, but there are other offices in worse condition that need to be done first.