Health care climate getting worse

To the editor:

I write this letter opposing UnitedHealth Group’s acquisition of Sierra Health Services amid the health care crisis occurring in Las Vegas.

Today’s circumstances involve an endoscopy center, but it could be any one of the many other specialty centers that survive on the high-volume/low-reimbursement contracts offered by the Sierra HMO. It should not surprise anyone that these HMO providers have cut corners and offered substandard care using a large-volume model to be able to make a profit. This dilemma that is unfolding in our community represents how poorly this model works in health care.

The aforementioned acquisition will only bring more of this to Las Vegas. At least now we have several HMOs in town competing for provider panels. Once Sierra Health is under the UnitedHealth umbrella, that market force will be gone. UnitedHealth’s track record speaks for itself. Sierra will only follow in the new ownership’s footsteps.

As appalled as I am about what has transpired at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, I am not surprised to see it happen. The victims in this crisis go beyond the patients who went through the clinic. All the elderly being herded through all these other specialty centers represent silent victims. Just because they might not have been negligently exposed to life-threatening diseases doesn’t mean their substandard care is irrelevant. Eventually, it will affect all of us who make Las Vegas home.

I do not fully understand the legalities of this acquisition, nor why our state officials refused to step in and make the right call. I am concerned that today, we are getting a small glimpse of what the Las Vegas health care landscape will look like several years from now.

Alex Delgado


Criminal negligence

To the editor:

Thousands of people who underwent procedures at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada were placed at risk of contracting a life-threatening disease. The professionally trained employees of the center knew or should have known that their actions placed untold numbers of people at risk of receiving potential death diseases. Surely such actions must come under criminal statutes.

The operational staff is no less guilty than the physicians. They, too, knew they were violating long-established standards for patient protection against communicable diseases. To say that their management told them to violate these standards is not a sufficient excuse.

Their excuse would suggest that if an operating surgeon told the nurse to leave a sponge inside the patient, the nurse would have no choice but to do so. Nurses have professional standards that they are ethically and professionally bound to uphold. We patients rely on their commitment and ability to uphold these standards.

I urge the state attorney general to express loudly and clearly to all medical personnel that blatant disregard for the patient’s life is far outside accepted medical standards and such behavior will subject them to criminal prosecution.

Neil Mizen


Impotent oversight

To the editor:

I am appalled at the apparent impotence of the state and the Southern Nevada Health District in addressing the alleged breakdown of universal precautions at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada.

A restaurant can be closed if its chicken is thawing in the wrong location; until the city of Las Vegas intervened, this medical facility was allowed to continue operations despite threatening the health of more than 40,000 Southern Nevada citizens.

Where can be found a sense of proportionality?

Michael Mas


Highway taxes

To the editor:

In response to the Friday letter to the editor from Nate Hansen regarding taxes in Nevada:

Clearly, all Nevadans should be concerned with the tax environment in the state. However, it should be pointed out that the $800 million tax increase supported by former Gov. Kenny Guinn and referred to Mr. Hansen never dealt with transportation issues.

The State Highway Fund, funded primarily by user fees such as the gasoline tax, registration and license fees, etc., is separate from all other general revenue funds and did not receive any enhanced revenues as a result of the tax increase of 2003.

The state gasoline tax has not been increased since 1992, while the needs of Nevada’s transportation infrastructure have increased markedly. With a multibillion-dollar transportation funding deficit looming over the next several years, everyone needs to be looking for solutions.

John Wilson



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