Las Vegas Sun

October 22, 2017

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Commissioners question UNR’s commitment to UMC teaching hospital


Tiffany Brown

University Medical Center, which is Clark County’s only publicly funded hospital.

A nearly three-hour meeting on the future of University Medical Center came to no final conclusion Wednesday, but county commissioners said they want to proceed with building a medical school if the state’s higher education system will cooperate.

Clark County commissioners, who are also the hospital’s board of trustees, joined the hospital’s new advisory board for a special joint meeting to discuss the advisory board’s role and the future governance of the region’s only public hospital.

Much of the meeting was spent discussing the operations of the new 11-member board, with sometimes-passionate discussion from some members.

But talk from county commissioners got heated only when discussing the hospital’s relationship with the state’s medical school, part of UNR.

The hospital is already affiliated with the medical school and more than half of the school’s residents and clinical faculty are in Las Vegas, interim Dean Cheryl Hug-English said.

But commissioners said the school has not been responsive to their requests for a partnership to make the hospital a true teaching facility.

“You can call it what it is, but there’s a north-south rivalry,” said Commissioner Steve Sisolak, a former regent for the higher education system. “There is not a pride of ownership when there’s a sense that it’s UNR coming into Las Vegas, when UNR doesn’t even have a presence in Las Vegas that they don’t want to take the time to station people down here.”

Sisolak said when discussions about the hospital first began, he called UNR’s president and never got a response.

“I question the commitment of UNR to this whole process when he’s not willing to go that far,” he said. “There has to be a buy-in from the medical school. I’m not seeing it from UNR.”

Hug-English said the school is committed to Las Vegas, and making UMC a teaching hospital would be a win-win for the hospital and school.

“There is a strong commitment to having a strong presence in Las Vegas,” she said. “I do believe there is a strong commitment from the president’s level, the provost’s level, certainly the dean’s level, to this process.”

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said the interim dean’s words weren’t enough and the new dean, who was recently selected, needs to live in Las Vegas instead of just visiting a few times a week.

“It’s time to build a facility down here, and the thing starts with the dean locating here,” she said. “This is where our residents are, this is where we want to create an academic center.”

Hug-English said the dean’s location was not important and that the new dean would decide where to live because the medical school is a statewide institution with a statewide mission.

But Giunchigliani said if UNR doesn’t want to cooperate, Las Vegas could set up its own school. “Maybe we just build our own facility down here and do our own school of med,” she said.

The commissioners also discussed a recommendation from a consultant to turn UMC over to a non-profit foundation.

But some commissioners and some of the advisory board members said they weren’t comfortable with a non-profit, which would not be subject to the same transparency and open meeting laws.

The consultant is scheduled to return to the next advisory board meeting to present more information and to help the board make a recommendation later to the commissioners.

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