Thursday, Jan. 13, 2011 | 12:39 p.m.
CARSON CITY – To avoid a repeat of the 2008 hepatitis outbreak in Las Vegas, the state is going to impose fee increases to cover the cost of unannounced inspections of medical facilities in Nevada.
The higher fees, approved Thursday by the Legislative Commission’s Subcommittee to Review Regulations, will prevent the need to lay off 12 or 13 inspectors next week, said Mike Willden, director of the state Department of Health and Welfare.
These fees will double and triple in some instances, depending on the time it takes to conduct the inspections, Willden said.
The 2009 Legislature ordered annual inspections of doctors’ offices, surgical centers for ambulatory patients and other facilities that provide health care. It directed the state Health Division to impose fees to cover the higher costs for these inspections.
Willden said there were already 11 to 12 vacant inspector positions and layoffs would be required if the fee increases weren't approved. This fee increase will bring in an additional $1.3 million in the next six months, Willden said.
Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, said these were big increases and questioned whether the state was over-reacting because of one outbreak. Willden said the state continued to find patient safety concerns one year after the hepatitis outbreak.
“We are still finding public safety issues,” Willden said.
In the past, Willden said some inspections might have occurred every six years.
Some legislators questioned whether the law could be amended to require inspections every 18 months instead of 12 months without endangering patient safety. Willden said that would have to be studied further.
A sample of the fee increases show the assessment for ambulatory surgical centers is going from $1,785 to $4,892. Residential group homes will be paying $100 per bed, up from the present $92. The renewal fee for urban hospitals will be increased from $5,000 to $7,303 and the patient bed assessment will rise from $30 to $55.
Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, the chairman of the subcommittee, said he is going to ask for a legislative audit to look at the high increases in the fees.
Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, R-Henderson, said the fee hikes were necessary or the state wouldn't be able to comply with the law passed in 2009.
Willden said the state has already imposed a fee against medical facilities to cover the inspection cost if a patient complaint is verified.