Las Vegas Sun

October 23, 2019

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Controversial UMC deal working out well after all

Despite its questionable origins, a cardiology contract at University Medical Center has resulted in improvements at the public hospital, according to a report provided to county commissioners last week.

Is this the same contract that stirred up all kinds of controversy?

That’s the one. You’ll recall that Lacy Thomas, then the hospital’s chief executive, wanted to give Nevada Heart & Vascular Center a $5 million-a-year contract to provide cardiology services at UMC, though another group had offered to do it for $1 million less. Commissioners approved the deal at their final meeting of 2006.

Scrutiny of the contract grew in January 2007 when the Sun revealed that then-Commissioner Yvonne Atkinson Gates cast a deciding vote without disclosing that her homebuilding company had a pending bid to construct a house for Dr. Raj Chanderraj, one of the group’s partners.

Atkinson Gates asked commissioners to reconsider the contract. They approved it again and she abstained.

Geez. Can it get much more controversial than that?

Actually, yes. The Review-Journal reported in April 2007 that a $5,000 check from Chanderraj to then-Commissioner Lynette Boggs didn’t make it into her campaign account. The Sun later reported that the check, written within days of the commission’s first vote on the contract, initially was deposited in Boggs’ personal bank account.

She filed an amended campaign finance report claiming the money as a campaign contribution.

So how has the contract worked out so far?

Hospital officials said Tuesday that Heart & Vascular has made big improvements.

Perhaps the most important is a faster door-to-balloon time. And no, that has nothing to do with clowns or birthday parties.

For severe heart attack victims, doctors reopen clogged arteries by inflating a tiny balloon at the site of the blockage. The period between a patient’s arrival at the hospital and the performance of that procedure is called door-to-balloon time. Studies have found that shorter door-to-balloon times greatly increase a patient’s chances of survival. Ideally, 75 percent of such procedures should take place in 90 minutes or less, hospital officials said.

At UMC the average door-to-balloon time was 146 minutes in 2006. That improved to 101 minutes after Heart & Vascular took over in 2007. And in the first three months of 2008, the average is 89 minutes.

Dr. William Resh, Heart & Vascular’s managing partner, said about 55 percent of patients are being treated within 90 minutes, still short of ideal. But he said the results are an improvement over the past and better than the national average.

The group has also reduced the time it takes cardiologists to get reports to patients and referring physicians, and UMC has scored higher on the American Heart Association’s clinical performance standards.

Speaking of doctors, what’s the latest with Ray Giunta?

Giunta is the minister who bought his master’s and doctoral degrees from an online degree mill for a few hundred bucks. He became known as a clinical psychologist, began doing psychological assessments of juvenile arson offenders for a local judge and landed an addiction recovery program contract with Clark County.

The fake degrees came to light earlier this year, thanks largely to a few of Giunta’s fellow congregants at Hope Baptist Church who had concerns after a medical mission trip to Thailand. The judge stopped using him, Clark County canceled his contract and the church yanked its support. Giunta has said he thought the degrees were legitimate, based on his “life experiences.”

As of last week, however, the Web site of Giunta’s We Care Ministries continued to tout a contract with Clark County and list Hope Baptist as a supporter. The Sun and church officials had told Giunta about the inaccuracies more than a month ago.

We called Giunta about the Web site again last week. He said he thought the information had already been removed. The next day, it was.

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