Crisis puts heat on Gibbons

Two and a half weeks after a Las Vegas clinic was first found to be using unsafe medical practices, Gov. Jim Gibbons on Monday announced it is time for the state to take aggressive action to restore public trust in the medical system.

“Action is needed,” Gibbons said on a Monday afternoon conference call with journalists. He added, “I am focused today like a laser on our health care system. I intend to take aggressive steps to restore public confidence in our health care system.”

That aggressive posture was the latest in a vacillating series of public stances Gibbons has taken on the crisis, which began with revelations Feb. 27 that the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada was the source of six cases of Hepatitis C. Authorities said the clinic’s practice of reusing syringes on patients, in turn contaminating vials of medication, violated medical standards. Notices were sent to 40,000 patients, urging testing for hepatitis and HIV.

As the scope of the crisis has expanded, the governor has seemed to delegate responsibility and to downplay the seriousness of the problem, leading to questions about his leadership.

Gibbons on Monday denied he had come late to the problem.

“I don’t think we waited long,” he said. “Additional information was coming in daily. When I received additional information after Saturday, it became very clear that we needed to take action, and that’s what we’re doing today.”

In response to the very next question, however, the governor said, “We cannot wait. We cannot linger until all the information is in while we are under this crisis of confidence in our public health care system. We have to take action.”

Gibbons declared states of emergency within a day of January’s flooding in Fernley and of last month’s earthquake in Wells. He has yet to publicly tour Southern Nevada medical facilities or otherwise officially address the health crisis in the place where it originated.

The day after health officials brought the medical procedures at the Endoscopy Center to light, Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., called for a congressional investigation. Two days after the crisis broke, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, frustrated that state and county bureaucracies were allowing the center to remain open, went to the clinic to shut it down personally by suspending its city business license.

Clark County, Henderson and North Las Vegas soon followed his lead, suspending the licenses of affiliated clinics as the probe, whose scope still is not fully known, continued to widen.

Gibbons’ first official response to the massive health alert came on March 6. In a news release, the governor announced he was instructing the state Department of Health and Human Services to use all available resources to address what he called a “public health emergency,” including tapping the state Disaster Relief Fund.

“With the health of so many Nevadans seemingly at risk, as governor, I feel it is imperative that we act swiftly and decisively to help restore public trust and to ensure that unsafe medical practices are halted immediately,” he said in the press release.

Two days after that, on March 8, a fellow Republican, state Sen. Joe Heck, a physician, implicitly rebuked Gibbons for not doing more. From his posting at a combat hospital in Iraq, the Army colonel called on Gibbons to convene the Nevada Academy of Health, saying in a news release, “Nevadans deserve much better than this, and they are looking to their elected leaders and the medical community for a swift, thorough and decisive response to this crisis in order to regain their trust and confidence.”

On March 10, Gibbons held a news conference on the issue in Carson City to answer media questions and to underscore the seriousness with which he regarded the problem. He said criminal action should be considered if clinic workers knowingly endangered people.

But he shrunk from suggestions that clinics needed more oversight. Comparing the situation to speeders on a highway, he said, “We could inspect (surgical centers) annually and then pretty soon, have we done overkill?”

On Saturday, Gibbons went further, telling the Reno Gazette-Journal that media “buffoonery” had frightened people unnecessarily and that six cases of hepatitis was a relatively small number.

A Gibbons adviser who spoke on condition of anonymity said the governor meant to express concern that people might not be seeking needed tests out of fear of the medical system, but botched his talking points, to the dismay of advisers and staff.

The adviser has not consulted with Gibbons on the health-care situation and said if he had, he would have urged much quicker and more sweeping action, potentially a removal of the entire medical board.

The shock caused by Gibbons’ Saturday comments and growing concern about the many conflicts of interest faced by members of the state Board of Medical Examiners led to emergency meetings late Sunday where Gibbons and staffers drafted a new, more aggressive stance.

Gibbons announced Sunday night that he was asking three members of the medical board to step down, as well as the board’s executive director and the head of the Bureau of Licensure and Certification. He also apologized for the “buffoonery” comment.

On Monday, Gibbons followed up with his strong calls for action and the announcement that an adviser linked to the clinic’s owner, Dr. Dipak Desai, was resigning.

It was too little, too late for critics of Gibbons.

“That should have been done immediately,” said Assemblywoman Susan Gerhardt, D-Henderson. “He certainly knew what the relationships (between doctors and board members) were. It’s the very least that could have been done.”

A former policewoman, Gerhardt likened the situation to that of a dangerous criminal at loose in a community. Once there is probable cause, the criminal should be removed from the streets while an investigation is conducted.

Gerhardt also took issue with Gibbons’ remarks on Saturday describing the crisis as media-generated hysteria. People have every right to be concerned, she said.

“People are worried. They’re angry about this situation. They need to be heard,” she said. “I thought what he said was very patronizing.” What was needed, she said, was “a word of support. Some empathy for what people are going through.”

University of Nevada, Reno, political scientist Eric Herzik said Gibbons’ response to the crisis in policy terms may have been the right one. But in political terms, it has been disastrous.

“It’s classic Gibbons: I’m digging in my heels because I think I’m right on the substance,” he said. “Gibbons is trying to argue this rational, detached response to what has become a very emotional issue.”

Herzik noted that Gibbons’ public relations team is in transition, with his longtime press secretary departing late last month and a new one scheduled to start later this week.

The interim press secretary, Daniel Burns, is juggling his simultaneous responsibilities as spokesman for other major state departments. He kicked off Monday’s conference call by wryly noting, “This is Dan Burns from the governor’s office — at least for the next three days.”

But that transition notwithstanding, “Gibbons has never been able to get out in front of issues,” Herzik said. “Gibbons is always reacting to things. There’s been a lot of addressing problems after the fact, rather than before.”

At a time of crisis, people want to see a governor acting gubernatorial, even if that means taking action that isn’t strictly necessary to create the impression of concern, he said.

The public, in such cases, needs reassurance from a leader who is forcefully taking charge, said Eric Dezenhall, CEO of the international crisis-management firm Dezenhall Resources and author of a new book, “Damage Control.”

Leaders often don’t have all the facts at hand in a developing situation, he said. “That said, when you’re dealing with public safety issues, going into virtual lockdown scares the hell out of people.”

“Somewhere in between saying nothing and making pretend you know everything about a situation is a middle ground,” said Dezenhall, who was speaking about general principles and did not have prior knowledge of the situation in Nevada.

“People are looking for a pathway out of the wilderness. Ideally, you’d be able to say, ‘Problem solved.’ But in the absence of that, people want to know what your plan is for getting through the uncertain future, and that you’re taking a personal interest in seeing it through.”

Contact reporter Molly Ball at or (702) 387-2919.

Bicyclist suffers major head trauma in hit-and-run
A bicyclist was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries after a Thursday morning hit-and-run crash near the school formerly known as Agassi Prep. Police said the bicyclist was hit by a white SUV, which fled the scene. The injured man suffered multiple injuries including major head trauma. As of 9 a.m., Lake Mead remained closed between Martin Luther King and Revere Street while police investigate.
Las Vegas artist Dave Dave dies at 42
Dave Dave talks about his art and his life in 2016. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dave Dave, whose dad set him on fire in 1983, dies
Dave Dave, a respected Las Vegas artist who was badly scarred as a boy when his father tried to burn him to death in Southern California, died at Sunrise Hospital on July 15. He was 42. When he was 6, Dave's father tried to kill him by setting him on fire. He was given a sleeping pill and his bed at a Buena Park, California, motel was doused with kerosene. “I remembered being in a lot of pain,” Dave told the Review-Journal in 2016. “When stuff happens to you at that young of an age, you tend to block it out, but I remember the pain was excruciating.” Dave, who was born David Rothenberg, became close friends with Michael Jackson, who met him after the attack, which burned more than 90 percent of his body. “I wanted to meet him, and he wanted to meet me, and that just turned into a lifelong relationship that never ended,” Dave said. “It was amazing being friends with Michael Jackson. He was an amazing person.” Dave attended ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California, and collaborated with various artists around Las Vegas, eventually selling his art to private collectors. Despite his challenges, he continued to live, thrive and create. Dave Dave
Homicide detectives investigate woman's death
Las Vegas police were called to Tahiti Village Resort early Wednesday after calls that someone had been shot. Police found a woman’s body between a parking garage and boiler room on the resort's property. A guest first reported hearing gunfire. There are no witnesses, but police will examine surveillance videos and look for clues. The woman was not identified, but a purse was found near the body. She did not appear to be a guest at the resort.
LVMPD Discusses Ross Dress for Less Shooting
LVMPD Assistant Sheriff Charles Hank discussed the 15th officer-involved shooting of the year at a press conference at Metro headquarters on Tuesday, Aug. 14. The active-shooter incident took place at the Ross Dress for Less store at the 4000 block Blue Diamond Road in the south Las Vegas Valley. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Metro Asst. Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Aug. 8 officer-involved shooting
Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman met with media Monday to discuss the details of the 14th officer-involved shooting of the year. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County School Board president Deanna Wright on travel expenses
Clark County School Board President Deanna Wright says she followed proper expense protocol in trip to Florida last year.
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program where community and business leaders joined to welcome students back with an inspirational welcome. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Shooting leaves 1 dead in southeast valley
A man was found fatally shot in the doorway of a squatter apartment after an argument ended in gunfire on Sunday night. Officers responded about 10:30 p.m. to the Silver Pines apartments and discovered the man in a breezeway in one of the buildings. The wounded man died at the scene, despite the efforts of another person, who tried to administer medical aid. Witnesses saw a man and a woman flee the scene, but were unable to give police a clear description.
North Las Vegas unveils new school crosswalk
North Las Vegas councilman Isaac Barron talks about the new school crosswalk in front of CP Squires Elementary School Monday, August 6, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
LVMPD Briefing on OIS #13
Assistant Sheriff Tim Kelly held a press conference to discuss details of the 13th officer-involved-shoot for the department in 2018. Video shows the moments before the suspect was shot. The shooting, which has been edited out, occurred as the suspect lunged at an officer outside the apartment. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sedan and semitrailer collide in south Las Vegas
An early Wednesday morning crash has left one person in critical condition. A sedan and semitrailer collided around 4 a.m. at the corner of Spencer Street and Serene Avenue. Police do not believe impairment is a factor in the crash. Spencer has been blocked off north of Serene while police continue their investigation.
Cybersecurity Professionals Flock to Las Vegas for Black Hat
Black Hat USA, the largest annual cybersecurity conference, is expecting a record 17,000 attendees during its six-day run at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center this week. One thing attendees have in mind is making sure they don't get hacked while they're there. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police chase ends with suspects captured in east Las Vegas
An early Tuesday morning chase ended with a car crash in an east Las Vegas neighborhood. Police were pursuing the vehicle, which they say was involved in robberies in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, when the driver crashed at Owens and Statz Street. A man was taken into custody. A woman was ejected from a vehicle and taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The intersection at Mojave Road and Owens Avenue was shut down while police officers searched for the suspect and investigated. The intersection will remain closed for most of the morning.
Record number participate in Touro University Nevada White Coat Ceremony
Three hundred sixty-five medical students received their white coats during the Touro University Nevada White Coat Ceremony at the M Resort in Henderson Monday. The ceremony was developed to honor students in osteopathic medicine, physician assistant studies, nursing, occupational therapy and physical therapy as they accept the professional responsibilities inherent in their relationship with patients. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Stop for school buses, urges CCSD
Clark County School District Police Department hold a mock traffic stop at Centennial High School in Las Vegas, Monday, Aug. 6, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Work Begins at Las Vegas Community Healing Garden
Crews moved the wooden Remembrance Wall at the Las Vegas Community Healing Garden on South Casino Center Boulevard Monday. Construction on a permanent wall is set to begin within the week. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Man wounded outside Cottages apartment
Las Vegas police don't have a motive after a man was shot early Monday morning outside a northwest valley apartment. The man's mother called police to say her son had been shot. She called police around 1:15 a.m. Other people were inside the apartment but no one else was injured. Police are still looking for the shooter.
Ride new Interstate 11 segment in one minute
Interstate 11 opens to the public Thursday, providing sweeping views of Lake Mead, art deco-style bridges and a mural illustrating the construction of Hoover Dam. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Miss El Tiempo 2019
Miss Teen El Tiempo and Miss El Tiempo 2019 were crowned at Sam's Town Saturday, August 4, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Las Vegas Woman Raises Awareness for Anxiety and Depression
Cassi Davis was diagnosed with anxiety and depression after the birth of her second child. After seeking help and support, she felt that there wasn't enough for support for those living day in and day out for those with mood disorders. She created the Crush Run, set for Sept. 22, to raise money for the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and bring together a community of people who live with the same conditions she does. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
North Las Vegas marks the opening of Tropical Parkway connector
The City of North Las Vegas, Nevada Department of Transportation and other partners celebrated the opening of the Tropical Parkway connector to Interstate 15 and the Las Vegas Beltway. The stretch of road will make access easier for distribution centers for Amazon, Sephora and other companies moving into an 1,100-acre industrial area rising near the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bighorn sheep with West Temple in background at Zion National Park
A bighorn sheep walks through Zion National Park (National Park Service)
Adult Superstore location closes after 45 years
The Adult Superstore on Main Street has closed its doors for good after 45 years. The shop, which offered a multitude of adult toys, novelty items and movies, opened in 1973. Four other locations remain open. A note on the front door tells customers, “We can’t fully express our sorrow.” Adult Superstore was awarded Best of Las Vegas adult store by the Review-Journal in 2016 and 2017 .
Funeral held for Las Vegas corrections officer
Department of Public Safety Correctional Officer Kyle Eng died July 19 after a fight with an inmate at the Las Vegas Jail. A funeral was held for Eng at Canyon Ridge Christian Church Monday, July 30, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
What Back-To-School Shopping Is Like For a CCSD Parent and Teacher
Laura LeBowsky, a CCSD special education teacher and mother of two, set out to shop for her children's supply lists at her local Walmart and Target. She was looking for deals to try to keep the total under $150, while also allowing Chloe, 8, and Brady, 6, some choice in what they wanted. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Businesses struggle to fill food manufacturing jobs
Chelten House is a family-owned food manufacturing company from New Jersey. They created a facility in Vegas five years ago and have struggled to find experienced workers in the area. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LeBron heckler crosses line, altercation erupts
NBA superstar LeBron James, his wife, Savannah, and daughter Zhuri were at Liberty High School to watch Bronny James in action Wednesday night. But an unruly fan wearing a Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls jersey heckled the newest Los Angeles Laker. The man screamed at event security with LeBron and his family about 150 feet away. The man had to be restrained, triggering a brief altercation with security. James and his family were escorted out a side door along with Bronny's team, the North Coast Blue Chips. Event officials canceled the game between the Blue Chips and Nike Meanstreets.
Las Vegas Oddities Shop in Downtown Las Vegas
Las Vegas Oddities shop owner Vanessa VanAlstyne describes what's for sale in one of the weirder and wackier stores in Downtown Las Vegas. The store opened less than a year ago and carries everything from human bones to "rogue" taxidermy to Victorian death photography. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trying to Staying Cool in the Las Vegas Heat
Cooling stations like Cambridge Recreation Center's opened across the Las Vegas Valley this week after the National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for the area. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like