Hospital CEO didn't want to put sinks in bathrooms, citing undue hardship

When choosing between either providing safe patient care or making a profit, MountainView Hospital, a Las Vegas-based acute care facility that is part of Sunrise Health System--owned by Hospital Corporation of America (NYSE: HCA)--veered toward cost savings at the expense of infection control.

In 2008 MountainView Hospital CEO Will Wagnon said he was committed to doing everything possible to reduce hospital-acquired infections, a Las Vegas Sun investigation reports. His pledge came on the heels of state inspections that found multiple infection control violations at the hospital, including blood on a lab floor, a physician assistant contaminating equipment with bloody gloves, and no system to monitor whether patients had picked up an infection after outpatient endoscopy or cardiac catheterization procedures.

The state inspectors' findings led the hospital to the brink of having its Medicare funding yanked, the Sun reports. MountainView, though, was able to avert a major loss of funds with a lengthy corrective plan.

Wagnon's commitment to infection control didn't last long, however. Weeks later, he asked the State Health Board for a variance to leave sinks out of bathrooms in 12 pediatric rooms, because installing the sinks in bathrooms, he said, would cause undue hardship. Not only would they require closing beds in the ICU below the pediatric rooms for two months of construction, the sinks would cost $300,000.

The hospital's request was denied. "This is just basic sanitation," Roger Works, a veterinarian who sits on the board told the Sun. "There's no way I can support a variance on that."

To learn more:
- read the Las Vegas Sun article, and read this previous Sun article from 2008 for more background
- check out the state Board of Health's decision from 2008