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Steven J. Klearman
Steven J. Klearman
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Reno Surgery Center Situation Different So Far From Las Vegas Hepatitis Scare

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I’ve been travelling for depositions the last few days while the story of deficiencies among ambulatory surgery centers has been brewing.

What’s clear from the recent publicity regarding surgery centers other than the infamous Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada is that not so much is clear.

Apparently when the State determined that as many as 40,000 people who visited the Southern Nevada house of surgical ill-repute might be infected with some awful thing or another, the State decided that it might widen its probe. Not completely surprisingly, the State found bad practices elsewhere, including in Reno.

While bad practices are bad practices, it’s not clear as of this writing just what the State may have found at locales north, and residents may wish to wait before rushing to judgment. My information is that allegations regarding Digestive Health Center in Reno are misleading and that local press may print clarifications in the coming days. So stay tuned and we’ll see what happens.

Here are a few things we know:

First, people who have visited centers that have been cited for deficiencies or have questions about the investigation can talk to an expert by calling the health department’s hotline at (702) 759-4636. The hotline can also be used by Northern Nevada residents; there is currently no hotline set up for local calls.

The foregoing was reported by the Reno Gazette Journal, which also indicated that “[f]or now, the state is advising the public to be patient.”

Why, though, should the State think that people should or will be patient when the State itself has publicized vague information and directives?

Importantly, there has been no report that I know of that anyone in the Reno or surrounding areas has tested positive for some disease associated with bad practices at any northern Nevada facility. There is no known correlation between the spread of disease and northern Nevada deficiencies. And this distinguishes the northern Nevada inspections from the southern Nevada inspections.

Here are some other things we know:

State police, the FBI and Nevada’s attorney general’s investigators served warrants today at six southern Nevada medical clinics associated with a facility accused of infecting patients with hepatitis by reusing syringes and vials of medicine. According to the Reno Gazette Journal, police say the raids are part of a criminal investigation of officials at the Gastroenterology Center of Nevada;

Governor Gibbons said today in a news conference that better funding for more inspections of Nevada’s out-patient surgical centers likely would not have prevented the unsafe practices that infected six patients with hepatitis C at a Las Vegas clinic. Frankly, this sounds somewhat absurd. Of course more inspections would have been useful. As things now stand, these clinics are inspected sporadically, and inspections occur once every seven or so years. Why wouldn’t more inspections serve the public good?

The Nevada Health Department’s site isn’t especially enlightening, but there is a press release issued as of Friday and I reprint that below. Keep tuning in: I will be watching this story closely and will bring you unadulterated and balanced reports based upon media and independent research. For now, I agree that northern Nevadans should not jump to conclusions.

Here’s the State’s official press release, which can also be found at State Press Release on Surgery Center Inspections March 7, 2008

SEVERAL ADDITIONAL OUTPATIENT SURGICAL CENTERS
FOUND TO HAVE DEFICIENT PRACTICES

No Further Infectious Disease Reports Identified

Carson City–Nevada Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Director
Mike Willden announced today that the Nevada State Health Division, Bureau of Licensure and
Certification (BLC) has found several outpatient surgical centers that have had deficiencies noted
during Focus Surveys currently being conducted. The Surveys are being completed as part of the
State’s effort to inspect all fifty Ambulatory Surgical Centers (ASCs) in the state that perform
outpatient surgical procedures.

In Northern Nevada, Focus Survey inspections have been done at ten of 19 ASCs. Three
facilities in Reno were found to be deficient due to a lack of using proper antiseptic practices or
for not using proper infectious disease prevention procedures. Five other facilities were found to
have problems that did not pose an infectious disease risk. In all eight cases, immediate
corrective action was undertaken before BLC staff exited the facility. At two facilities, Sierra
Vista Surgery Center and South Meadows Endoscopy Center, no deficiencies were noted.
In Clark County, the Gastrointestinal Diagnostic Center will receive a formal Statement
of Deficiencies on Monday, March 10, from BLC. The deficiencies noted at the facility are
similar to those discovered at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada. The facility will have
ten days to submit its Plan of Correction to BLC (March 21, 2008). Upon further inspection, if
the facility is found to be negligent in adhering to the Plan of Correction, the facility is subject to
summary suspension of its license.

“It is important to note there has been absolutely no known infectious disease reports
associated with any of the facilities that were notified of deficient practices,” Willden said.
“Further, the Bureau of Licensure and Certification does not leave a facility whose practices pose
a threat to public health until corrective action is taken.”

Willden said the State Health Division continues to work closely with the Washoe
County Health Division and the Southern Nevada Health Division to monitor any reports of
infectious disease any of the three agencies discovers.

Three facilities in the Reno area who were identified as being deficient due to a lack of
using proper antiseptic practices or for not using proper infectious disease prevention procedures
are:

• St. Mary’s Outpatient Clinic at Galena
18653 Wedge Parkway, Reno

Improper sterilization procedures

• Digestive Health Center
5250 Kietzke Lane, Reno

Improper sterilization procedures

• Sierra Center for Foot Surgery
1801 N. Carson Street, Carson City

Staff admitted reusing syringes

Willden said the State Health Division will post on its website (http://health.nv.gov)
information about all ASC inspections by BLC. Members of the public may call (775) 684-5900
24 hours a day to receive information about any questions related to the inspections or infectious
disease prevention.