Gov. Gibbons reacts to hepatitis C outbreak
The head of a state licensing bureau was fired today on orders from Gov. Jim Gibbons, but some of his other housecleaning efforts following a hepatitis C outbreak in Las Vegas faced delays and obstacles ” and raised more questions.
A spokesman for Mike Willden, head of the state Health and Human Services Department, said Willden was carrying out the governor’s directive Sunday to fire Lisa Jones, who has been in charge of the state Bureau of Licensure and Certification since late last year.
But three doctors on the state Board of Medical Examiners who Gibbons wants replaced didn’t resign immediately. Drs. Javaid Anwar, S. Daniel McBride and Sohail Anjum already have recused themselves from any board meetings dealing with an endoscopy center linked to the hepatitis outbreak.
Tony Clark, the medical board’s executive director who Gibbons also wants replaced, said Monday he wouldn’t step down at Gibbons’ request and instead would follow the direction of the board, which by state law decides whether he stays or goes.
Clark added that Gibbons’ move against him looks like political payback. Clark, formerly Nevada’s adjutant general, ran the state Air and Army National Guard when Gibbons, a decorated military pilot, was ordered to retire as Air Guard vice commander in late 1994. Gibbons, a Delta Airlines pilot at the time, unsuccessfully fought the order.
Gibbons spokesman Daniel Burns said it was “pure baloney” to suggest Gibbons might have a payback motive, adding that Clark should go “because he is not doing his job on the Board of Medical Examiners.”
As for the three doctors who Gibbons wants replaced on the nine-member Board of Medical Examiners, both Burns and Clark said they hadn’t heard from them on Monday regarding the governor’s request. Gibbons can’t name new board members unless the doctors resign.
Gibbons wants the three doctors replaced because of their associations or business dealings with Dr. Dipak Desai, owner of the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada. Officials last month said through unsafe syringe use, six patients at the center were infected with hepatitis C.
Another 40,000 people at risk for potentially fatal blood-borne diseases are being notified to get tested. Their final test results are pending.
“The governor has a goal here,” Burns said. “The goal is to have a board free of any possible recusals or conflicts, and that’s what we’re going to find.”
Desai served on Gibbons’ health care transition team following the governor’s November 2006 election. He also served on the Board of Medical Examiners from 1993 to 2001, including a stint as chairman of its investigative committee. Desai has refused to answer questions about the outbreak.
The case sparked a massive health alert by the Southern Nevada Health District, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state Bureau of Licensure and Certification.
The case also prompted a sweeping probe of Nevada’s 50 surgical centers by state health inspectors, who have found similar unsafe procedures at six other clinics so far. No disease transmission has been linked to any other clinic.
Gibbons has defended the Endoscopy Center, saying more cases of hepatitis C would have been discovered by now had its doctors and nurses been grossly negligent.
Health officials found no evidence of doctors or nurses reusing needles at the endoscopy center. But they think nurses contaminated single-use medication vials with reused syringes and then used those vials on multiple patients.