CARSON CITY -- Reversing course, Gov. Jim Gibbons on Friday ended efforts to oust three doctors from the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners because of their ties to the owner of a Las Vegas clinic where flawed procedures led to a massive health alert.
Gibbons also is no longer pressing for the resignation of Tony Clark, the board's executive director even though he still thinks Clark should go, a spokesman said.
The governor now plans to appoint three temporary board members to step in as the panel deals with matters involving the clinic linked to a hepatitis C outbreak, Gibbons press secretary Ben Kieckhefer said.
That's what the board had suggested, although Gibbons had rejected the suggestion previously and had insisted that Drs. Javaid Anwar, Daniel McBride and Sohail Anjum step down. He even threatened a legal fight if they didn't "do what is right" and resign.
Without a successful legal effort or the doctors' voluntary resignations, Gibbons couldn't replace them. The medical board terms of Anjum and McBride run until mid-2009 while Anwar's four-year term doesn't expire until mid-2011.
"The decision was made that in the best interests of restoring public faith in the health care system, we shouldn't let this drag on," Kieckhefer said Friday.
Kieckhefer also said Gibbons wasn't reacting to criticism or to suggestions from fellow Republicans Sen. John Ensign and former Gov. Kenny Guinn to back off from the resignation demands and instead make the temporary appointments to the nine-member board.
"It has nothing to do with any criticism that the governor received from the media or anyone else," Kieckhefer said. "He's acting in what he considers the best interests of the state."
The press secretary said Gibbons respects Guinn and Ensign but he's the governor and the temporary appointment idea "was not like their original idea. It was an option that presented itself early on."
McBride had termed the governor's initial move "outrageous," and accused Gibbons of playing politics. He said that if the Board of Medical Examiners seemed to move slowly on the hepatitis issue, it was because Gibbons' Board of Licensure and Certification delayed informing the examiners' panel until after stories of the problem surfaced in the media.
The bureau oversees clinics including the endoscopy center linked to the hepatitis outbreak.
Clark had said Gibbons' move against him looked 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 had termed the payback comment by Clark, who answers to the board and not the governor, "patently false and preposterous."
Gibbons had wanted the three doctors to resign because of their associations or business dealings with Dr. Dipak Desai, owner of the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada. Instead, they recused themselves from the medical board's inquiry into the center.
Officials last month said that through unsafe syringe use, six patients at the center were infected with hepatitis C.
Another 40,000 people were sent notices urging them to be tested for hepatitis and HIV.
Besides the six cases linked to the endoscopy center, officials learned of a seventh case of the blood-borne liver disease involving a patient at the Desert Shadow Endoscopy Center in Las Vegas in mid-2006. Both centers are among six clinics headed by Desai.