Las Vegas Sun

October 17, 2018

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CARSON CITY:

Ex-lieutenant governor has performed his last surgery, per settlement

Also, law creating new worker safety training regulations will take effect Jan. 1

Neurosurgeon and former Lt. Gov. Lonnie Hammargren has agreed to no longer perform surgeries as part of a medical malpractice settlement.

Hammargren will, however, keep his medical license under the agreement, which will be presented for approval to the state Medical Examiners Board on Friday.

The settlement is confidential until accepted by the board, but Hammargren confirmed details of the agreement to the Sun.

He could continue to practice medicine, but Hammargren said, “I’m not seeing any patients.”

Hammargren said he stopped performing surgeries in 2005, when his malpractice insurance costs rose to $275,000 a year.

The malpractice complaint, filed in December, alleged that during a 2002 operation to remove a brain tumor from a 41-year-old female patient, Hammargren failed to remove the tumor and didn’t “use the reasonable care, skill, or knowledge ordinarily used under similar circumstances.”

Hammargren, who is also a former university regent, said the surgery did not constitute malpractice. Three neurosurgeons examined the patient file and agreed there was no malpractice, he said.

Hammargren, a licensed physician since 1971, has not faced disciplinary action, according to state records, which the Medical Examiners Board began compiling in 1988.

The patient arrived at Desert Springs Hospital in June 2001 complaining of tingling in her right arm and leg and a weakness in her leg. Two tests were performed suggesting she suffered from meningioma, described as a tumor surrounding the brain. Hammargren performed surgery to remove the tumor. Tests on the removed tissue showed the specimen did not contain meningioma.

Under the settlement, Hammargren will pay $2,677 to cover the costs of the investigation and work by board staff.

•••

It took several months but new worker safety regulations are in place.

The Legislature passed a law requiring safety training for supervisors and workers on construction sites. The law, which will take effect Jan. 1, requires supervisors at construction jobs to have 30 hours of training in an approved safety and health course. Workers will be required to take 10 hours of training.

The state Industrial Regulations Division held a workshop last week to gather recommendations on the regulation. The division will decide what courses fulfill training requirements.

Once the requirements are written, attorneys for the Legislature will review them and a final hearing will be held, officials said.

The law requires employers to suspend or fire workers who fail to get the training within 15 days of being hired. Employers who fail to take the disciplinary action can be fined by the state. An employer can be fined up to $500 for a first offense, $1,000 for a second offense and up to $70,000 for repeated failure to ensure workers have the training.

The bill in the Legislature passed the Senate 20-0 with former Sen. Warren Hardy, R-Las Vegas, abstaining. He is president of Associated Builders and Contractors.

It was approved by the Assembly with only three dissenting votes — Republicans Tyrus Cobb of Reno, Don Gustavson of Sparks and Edwin Goedhart of Amargosa Valley.

During the recent construction boom in Las Vegas, 12 construction workers were killed in accidents within an 18-month period. A task force of the U.S. Labor Department is also examining the practices of the state in investigating industrial accidents and is expected to issue its report in about a month.

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