Las Vegas Sun

July 23, 2014

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Sun editorial:

A matter of trust

The way the state medical board has handled complaints erodes public confidence

Dr. Sean Su of Las Vegas was ordered to stop performing cosmetic surgeries at his clinic this month after the state’s Health Division found gross health and safety violations at the facility. He was, however, still allowed to practice medicine.

As Marshall Allen reported in Sunday’s Las Vegas Sun, the Health Division has authority over the clinic. It can — and does — move quickly to act in situations it deems hazardous. Su’s license is regulated by the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners, which has earned a reputation for being slow and plodding.

So should it come as a surprise that Su’s license was suspended Tuesday, nearly a month after the Health Division shut down the clinic? In suspending Su’s license, the board found there was an imminent risk to patients’ health. We wonder why it took so long for the board to see that.

Su is not trained as a cosmetic surgeon and is not, as he claimed, board-certified. A woman complained of serious problems after a breast augmentation surgery he did in April, and doctors who did corrective surgery reported several errors from the original procedure.

In addition, Health Division inspectors say Su’s clinic stocked and used medicine and medical supplies, including sutures and scalpels, that were years past their expiration dates. Medical waste had been left sitting for days in one room of the clinic.

Investigators reported that Su couldn’t tell them the process he used for sterilizing equipment. The employee that Su said did the sterilizing couldn’t explain the process either.

A new law that goes into effect in October will allow the board to move more quickly in serious cases, and that is welcome. But the issue is not just about the law; it’s also about the board having the will to enforce it. In the past the board has shown little interest in moving swiftly or forcefully, as evidenced by its anemic handling of the hepatitis C outbreak.

As a result, the public’s confidence in the medical community has been harmed. This action against Su may be speedy by the board’s standards, but it’s not enough. In the future the board must demonstrate that it will act immediately to protect the public’s health.

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