Las Vegas Sun

April 19, 2014

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Sun editorial:

Health care cynicism

Survey in wake of hepatitis outbreak reveals growing mistrust of medical field

Public mistrust of outpatient surgery centers is high and respondents to a recent survey said they would pay higher taxes to have them more tightly regulated.

Responding to phone calls from UNLV’s Cannon Survey Center, 400 randomly chosen people vented their feelings in the wake of the hepatitis outbreak that has been traced to unsafe practices at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada.

Almost three out of every four said they would be willing to pay more taxes to have such centers placed under greater state scrutiny. That response belies the stance of Gov. Jim Gibbons, who claims to be representing Nevadans in opposing any increase in taxes or fees, even to hire more health inspectors.

More than 80 cases of hepatitis C have been linked to the now-closed Endoscopy Center. Violations of disease-prevention safeguards were discovered there in January by local, state and federal health inspectors, but too late to prevent the outbreak. The center had not been inspected since 2001.

Violations included anesthesia injections administered with used syringes and multiple patients being injected with medicine from vials labeled for single use. Notifications have been sent to 50,000 former patients of the center, advising them to get their blood tested.

Anger toward the Endoscopy Center’s medical staff and overall mistrust of health care providers were expressed by a majority of respondents. They felt that the center’s doctors and nurses should face criminal charges, and that the whole health care system is oriented more toward profits than toward patients.

About two-thirds of the respondents said they would probably not give blood as the result of the hepatitis outbreak, and about 57 percent delivered a blow to preventive medicine in saying they would not likely undergo colonoscopies in Las Vegas.

The level of mistrust expressed by the respondents toward the medical profession should be of great concern to public-policy makers as well as doctors, nurses and health care administrators. We hope medical providers work among themselves and with lawmakers to bring about the changes people are demanding.

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