Critics Blame Governor for Hepatitis C Exposures

By: Auburn Hutton Email
By: Auburn Hutton Email

Less than a week after a Las Vegas endoscopy center was shut down for unsafe practices, Governor Jim Gibbons is facing some tough criticism.

During the 2007 legislative session, Gibbons cut ten new inspector positions from the Bureau of Li censure and Certification budget. That's cutting roughly one inspector out of every six.

Last week, the Vegas center was outed for allegedly infecting six people with Hepatitis C and exposing some 40,000 patients

Some lawmakers say the Governor's decision to cut positions has jeopardized public health. Gibbons announced his "critical concern" for the state of health care in Nevada, but he also said, he's not the one to blame.

In response to some heated questions, Governor Gibbons told the media his decision to cut surveyor positions has nothing to do with unsafe medical practices.

"More money isn't the issue. Raising fees isn't the issue. What is the issue is making sure people are well-trained and that we have the right number of people to do inspections and we're working on that. That was my question. Well that was my answer," said the Governor.

Gibbons says the positions are entirely funded by federal money and fees, not the B-L-C budget he chipped away at last year.

State Health Director Mike Willden says the problem stems from an inability to recruit and retain nurses who want to hold those jobs. He says it's not like the highly-sought after direct care nurse position, and it pays less.

"You're delivering babies or caring for the elderly, doing immunizations, something like that. This is largely administrative work where you are in a quality control and oversight position, so it takes a different animal to do something like that.", said Wilden.

Lawmakers say they plan to introduce legislation in 2009 that will largely address the nurse shortage, as well as health statutes and codes that have been broken. Gibbons says it's not the time to place blame or point fingers, but rather, to look ahead.

"We are addressing this issue. We are looking speedily for a solution. We've issued emergency regulations in regard to infection and infection controls," he said.

The Department of Health is conducting inspections on all 50 ambulatory care centers in Nevada this week. The visits are unannounced, but with all the media attention, many of these centers will probably be expecting a visit, and therefore, may also have time to prepare for it.

So far, out of the 14 inspections done in Northern Nevada, three clinics have displayed unsafe practices. None of them have come up positive for spreading an infectious disease.

For information on those clinics, and the latest on the Hepatitis C investigation, go health.nv.gov


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