Legislative health panel meeting set

A panel of state lawmakers will spend more than two hours today discussing the cluster of hepatitis C cases linked to a valley endoscopy clinic.

The Legislative Committee on Health Care will focus on three subjects, the committee chairwoman, Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said Wednesday:

• The testing of the 40,000 patients of the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada who may have been exposed to HIV and hepatitis B and C.

The strengthening of Nevada’s laws on ambulatory surgery centers.

• And ensuring that such a crisis doesn’t happen again.

"Hospitals have to be inspected every three years by our licensing bureau, and they also are inspected by the Joint Commission (hospital accreditation organization)," Leslie said. "Maybe ambulatory surgery centers, which do similar procedures as hospitals, need to be inspected every three years as well."

The 9 a.m. committee meeting is at the Sawyer Building, 555 E. Washington Ave., and can also be viewed online at

Leslie said she has asked representatives of the state’s Bureau of Licensure and Certification and the Southern Nevada Health District to attend.

Physicians and representatives from the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada were not invited, Leslie said. But they are welcome to attend and comment as would any member of the public, she added.

"We’re not here to grill anyone or to do an investigation," she said. "I will be taking public comment, but our focus is on solutions and not a rehash of events."

While investigating the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, health officials found that staff reused syringes, contaminating vials of medication and infecting six people with hepatitis C.

Also on Wednesday, state officials announced the Bureau of Licensure will visit all 50 ambulatory surgical centers in Nevada. Department of Health and Human Services Director Mike Willden said 16 bureau surveyors are making unannounced visits to ambulatory surgical centers to observe procedures at facilities for four to six hours.

State health officials said they’ll be seeking additional resources from the federal government to help conduct the surveys, which they expect to complete by the end of March.

Gov. Jim Gibbons also authorized the State Health Division to adopt emergency regulations requiring the staff of ambulatory surgical centers to demonstrate competency in their use of medications.

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