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January 30, 2015

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UMC CEO: Bill to open cancer center doesn’t address funding

CARSON CITY – If the Legislature passes a bill requiring University Medical Center to re-open its out-patient cancer center, it won’t solve the problem of providing the funds to operate the center, UMC CEO Kathy Silver said today.

Silver said the controversial decision to close the public hospital’s cancer center wasn’t an easy one, but was necessary because the county faces a deficit of more than $70 million this fiscal year and could be in the hole $90 million next fiscal year.

Silver was before the committee to address Assembly Bill 433, which would require the hospital to operate the cancer center.

Silver told the committee it would take $3.5 million to re-open the clinic and operate at the same level. But she noted outside the hearing room that the bill doesn’t provide any money.

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said the decision to close the clinic -- the subject of a segment on Sunday’s “60 Minutes” television program -- was “unacceptable.”

“People are dying,” Leslie said, adding that she couldn’t understand why UMC and Clark County could not come up with a way to keep the center operating.

Silver and Nancy McClain, director of Clark County Social Services, said many of these patients are being served. McClain told the committee that 38 people who are eligible and were getting out-patient treatment are being served.

Justine Harrison, vice president of legal and government affairs of the non-profit Nevada Cancer Institute, said it is also providing more care for those charity patients of the cancer center. This is a short-term solution and it will be unaffordable in the long run, she said.

Silver told the committee that poor and rich people are getting services for cancer in Southern Nevada, while middle class people without insurance aren’t being served. Medicaid payments also have been reduced to the hospital.

Outside the committee hearing, Silver told reporters there have been discussions of possibility closing the hospital – the only county hospital in Nevada that has such specialties as trauma and burn centers.

Silver said UMC is in talks with two groups interested in re-opening the public hospital’s out-patient cancer center. She did not identify the two groups. She said UMC expected the rest of the medical community to provide the services to middle-class patients without insurance, but the medical community has "not stepped up,” she told the committee.

Leslie said she is haunted by the patients who were interviewed on "60 Minutes" and she can’t sleep. “We need an immediate solution. I will work with you,” she said.

The committee did not take action on the bill.

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