CMC, Saint Anselm College benefit from return of federal earmarks

March 29, 2022

Catholic Medical Center is working on plans to build a state-of-the-art simulation lab for nursing students and medical professionals, thanks to $2 million in federal funding announced this week by U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

Sandwiched into the federal budget bill signed by President Joe Biden two weeks ago, the spending signals a return to budget bills with local projects. Congress had stopped earmarks in 2011 but returned to the practice with this year’s $1.5 trillion budget.

Known in the past as earmarks or pork-barrel spending, the project-based appropriations have a new name — congressionally directed spending.

In an email, Shaheen said congressionally directed spending is an important tool to deliver New Hampshire its fair share of federal spending.

“Smaller states like ours are often unfairly short-changed by government funding formulas,” wrote Shaheen, a Democrat in her third term. “That’s why Democrats and Republicans supported bringing it back to ensure our communities, no matter their size, have an opportunity to secure the resources they need to make important investments.”

Her office provided a 30-page spreadsheet that lists $65 million in federal spending identified for New Hampshire. She chairs an appropriations subcommittee that holds sway over spending on commerce, justice and science issues.

Conservatives have long complained about earmarks, saying they increase the federal deficit.

“The whole process is broken. Congress should focus on unmet needs across the United States,” said Greg Moore, New Hampshire director of Americans for Prosperity.

Congress eliminated earmarks in name only in the early 2000s, he said. They got around the elimination by providing more money for federal agencies, and then senators and congressmen pressured the agencies for local funding, he said.

“I suppose we could argue this might be more transparent,” Moore said. He said Congress should return to the ’90s, when it sent block grants to states, which used the money as they saw fit. That was the last time the country had a surplus, he said.

At the simulation lab

The CMC simulation lab, which features high-tech mannequins that can cry and bleed, would be located at CMC space at the Mill West complex, hospital officials said. It is designed for instruction of Saint Anselm College students, presidents of the two organizations said.

It is one of 16 federal projects targeted for the Manchester area.

Presidents of both CMC and Saint Anselm College said the lab is an upgrade of what is available to students now, and they hope it will convince a higher portion of the 100 annual graduates of the college’s nursing program to start their careers in the Granite State.

“There’s really nothing like it in this part of the state,” said Alex Walker, CMC president and chief executive. Preliminary estimates say the 13,000-square-foot lab will cost $6 million in space configuration and equipment.

Simulation nursing labs use “high-fidelity simulators” that resemble a human being, which nursing students can work on. CMC currently has three. One is a birthing mother, another a newborn.

They offer opportunities for hands-on work for surgery, birthing and catherization. Electronic equipment monitors their vital signs as if they were human. They can scream in pain. They can die.

“It does talk, it does excrete fluids, so it can bleed, it can urinate,” said Jennifer Cassin, CMC vice president of nursing and chief nursing officer.

She said it hasn’t been decided how many will be acquired for the new simulation lab.

Walker said most hospitals have small labs. CMC’s shrunk to a couple of hundred square feet during the pandemic as it tried to adjust to clinical demands, he said. It will be available to medical professionals outside CMC and students beyond Saint Anselm, he said.

“We’re going to view it as a real community resource,” he said.

Joseph Favazza, president of Saint Anselm College, said the sim lab will create a closer partnership between the two organizations.

“This kind of training and the opportunity to work at CMC might be an incentive for more of our nursing students to stay in New Hampshire,” he said.

By:  Mark Haywrard
Source: Union Leader