Nevada is truly in a state of crisis when it comes to the health of state residents and this crisis has developed under the watch of Governor Sandoval. From alarming safety issues in hospitals and nursing homes to the teenage pregnancy rate and teenage drug use statistics, it is clear that the health of Nevada residents is not in competent hands. Because of this and many other issues, Brian Sandoval is the nation’s worst governor.
In 2013, Consumer Reports rated Nevada’s hospitals as the “worst in the nation.” Consumer Reports examined the response of 2,463 hospitals to potentially adverse events during Medicare patient surgical hospital stays from 2009 to 2011. Nevada hospitals were ranked dead last on the report. Further, in April of 2013, when the AARP issued a report on America’s Safest Hospitals, not a single Nevada hospital was included on the list. An old doctor’s joke asks where a person should go if they get sick in Las Vegas and the current answer is to “go to McCarran Airport!” However, the issue of abysmal healthcare is no laughing matter. Nevadans have a right to be concerned and need to let Governor Sandoval know they want to see a change in the status quo. However, their confidence in him may be weak – a reflection of Brian Sandoval’s poor performance thus far.
Worst Nursing Homes
Nursing home safety records are also a huge concern for seniors and their families with only 25 percent of Nevada’s nursing homes scoring “above average” on a health inspection. According to Families for Better Care, an organization that advocates for quality nursing home care, every Nevada nursing home has been “cited for a deficiency” [and] “abuse and neglect” are sweeping through these homes with more than one in three care facilities cited for “severe deficiency.” They then gave Nevada a resounding “F” scoring the state as the “worst in the Pacific Region.” So under the watch of Governor Sandoval, Nevada is not a safe place to get sick or grow old.
Nevadans face a severe shortage of doctors and nurses. Nevada ranks 48th for doctors per capita and there are absolutely not enough doctors. In 2009, Nevada ranked far below the national average with only 218 doctors per 100,000 people, while the national average is 307 doctors per 100,000 people (AAMC). This issue is compounded by the fact that only about 50 percent of “graduating resident physicians” remain in the state to practice medicine, which further impacts the doctor shortage.
Nevada’s nursing shortage is even worse ranking 51st with 605 RNs per 100,000, 30 percent below the national average of 874 and about one third of Washington, DCs 1728 (Kaiser Foundation, 2011). It is imminently clear why Nevada has the worst health care in the nation.
Worst Teen Drug Use and Not Enough Treatment
Nevada’s record on youth drug use is also truly alarming. Primary heroin admissions for Nevada teens (12 -17) has risen since 2003 and Nevada youths accounted for 3.6 percent of the total primary heroin admissions, compared to 0.5 percent nationwide, so Nevada is seven times higher! Furthermore, U.S. teens significantly decreased their illicit drug dependence or abuse from 2002 through 2009, whereas in Nevada, these statistics significantly increased.
Nevada youth were in the worst tier for their past-year and past-month marijuana use and they had a significantly higher past-year nonmedical use of pain relievers than U.S. youths. Currently these statistics are elevated for both 2013 and 2014.
In addition, the statistics on Nevada youth in need of drug or alcohol dependence treatment but not receiving that treatment are dismal. In 2008–2009, Nevada youths were ranked 4th tier in the category “needing but not receiving treatment for alcohol use” and 5th tier in the category “needing but not receiving treatment for illicit drug use.” Allowing Nevada’s youth to fall through the cracks of drug and alcohol dependence is not acceptable and treatment options must be made readily available to them.
Under Governor Brian Sandoval, Nevada ranks fourth from the bottom nationally with 84 teenage pregnancies out of every 1,000 teenagers ranging in age from 15 to 19. Despite the high number of pregnancies, Nevada still does not offer age appropriate sex education classes in the schools. In other reproductive health areas, Nevada ranks almost par with a third world country when it comes to miscarriages with only six U.S. states ranking below Nevada.
Worst Public Health
“Median state funding for public health was $30.09 per capita” and the range of funding included Hawaii with a high of $154.80 and Nevada with a shocking low of $3.45. (2012 Trust for America’s Health). Not only does Nevada have over 2 million residents, the state also hosts some 40 million tourists annually and many of these tourists have traveled from third world countries and have the potential to bring with them dangerous diseases including treatment resistant tuberculosis. In addition, the state is not equipped to adequately screen for vector borne diseases and saw 10 cases of West Nile Virus in 2013.
The Southern Nevada Health District is critically underfunded ranking 51st in funding, far behind other states and they have had to cut 12 percent of existing staff due to budgetary concerns. Nevada has one of the highest maternal mortality and premature birth death rates in the nation, is among the highest in terms of Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) rates, and has very high HIV rates.
If the state is to take care of the health of its residents, it simply cannot afford to cut medical care, access to immunizations and staffing. However, with the state’s “No New Taxes” mantra in place, there are no additional funds available to prevent further erosion of Nevada’s ability to provide medical care to its residents. Nevada’s elected officials need to realize that in many ways Nevada is a “failed state” and that some new taxes must be enacted before a catastrophe occurs.
Worst Mental Health
When Governor Sandoval was elected, one of Nevada’s three state mental hospitals was “chronically unaccredited.” Under his watch, now two of the three hospitals are unaccredited. This status not only means that mental health patients are in danger of substandard care, it also means that the state cannot bill Medicare and Medicaid for federal reimbursement. Thus, this burden falls on the taxpayer and the state budget.
Nevada was already ranked with a grade of “D” by the National Alliance of the Mentally Ill (NAMI) in 2006 and then even worse in two categories as an “F” in 2009. However, the 28 percent decrease in mental health funding between 2009 and 2012 has further limited the state’s ability to provide adequate mental health care. In fact, Nevada has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation but one of the lowest per capita rates for mental health funding.
Governor Sandoval has demonstrated his inability to handle the mental health crisis as is evidenced by the commission he formed after the busing scandal and Rawson Neal Psychiatric Hospital lost its accreditation. The Governor’s Behavioral Health and Wellness Council was tasked with evaluating the reasons why the hospital lost its accreditation. Incredibly, Sandoval failed to include even one psychiatrist on the commission, and they are the psychiatric hospital experts.
Clearly, Nevada has had existing issues with health services but under the watch of Governor Sandoval, each and every one of these issues has degraded. Currently, Nevada is in a state of health crisis with inadequate care in hospitals and nursing homes. The state’s ability to administer public healthcare has been dangerously compromised. There is an extreme shortage of doctors and nurses willing to practice in the state and the critical needs of Nevada’s youth are not being met when it comes to drug dependency and teen pregnancies. Further, Nevada’s mental health patients are at continued risk for substandard care. Added all together, under the watch of Governor Brian Sandoval, Nevada now has the worst healthcare in the nation and it is time for a change in leadership.
Opinion By Stephen H. Frye, M.D. Senior Medical Editor
Dr. Stephen H. Frye is serving Nevada by running for Governor. He has a clear vision on how to alleviate the state’s budget crisis. His strategy to legalize marijuana for all adults will raise hundreds of millions of dollars for Nevada schools and legalizing hemp can create thousands of more jobs in agriculture and manufacturing to help fund some of Nevada’s other critical state issues. Dr. Frye also wants to increase cigarette taxes, which are currently on the low end of the national scale. If some people chose to stop smoking, as a doctor he is very pleased with that.