While the Mesquite City Council voted on several mundane agenda items at its Tuesday, Aug. 14, meeting, the bulk of their time on the dais was taken up with discussions about education and medical issues.
Clark County School District Associate Superintendent Grant Hanevold began his quarterly report by recognizing problems with bus routes that occurred the first day of school. City Attorney Bob Sweetin praised Hanevold for quickly addressing the issues and getting the problems resolved.
Hanevold told the council that Virgin Valley High School Principal Cliff Hughes will be out for the school year on medical leave and that Hughes Middle School Principal Maury Perkins will serve a dual role as interim principal for both schools.
Virgin Valley Elementary School Assistant Principal Matt Bennett was moved to Grant Bowler Elementary School in Logandale while that assistant principal was moved to VVES. Hanevold said it was a way to have the assistants work with different principals to broaden their experience.
Addressing the continuing budget woes of the district, Hanevold said he thinks rural schools “get the short end of the stick” when it comes to funding. “You are more similar to rural schools in Lincoln and Nye counties than you are to other schools in Clark County. Perhaps it’s worth pursuing how much funding goes to those rural counties that look more like Mesquite and Moapa Valley and see if there’s a way to secure more funding through the legislative process.”
Schools in rural counties are funded significantly higher per pupil than those in mostly urban counties like Clark and Washoe counties.
Councilman Geno Withelder asked Hanevold about marijuana tax monies that supposedly were being set aside at the state level to help fund education throughout the state. To date, none of the money has been distributed.
Hanevold said he hadn’t heard any more about it than others. “All I know is that the governor has this coffer of money at his disposal and when that money is going to be shelled out is unknown. At this point, our superintendent doesn’t have an answer.”
Hanevold explained that one of the problems with Virgin Valley schools receiving extra funding is that they are “too successful” and do too good of a job at educating students therefore the locals schools are not eligible for supplemental funds. “There definitely is inequity with rural schools. It’s not so much that you are rural it’s that you achieve. The district punishes schools for achieving. Smaller schools tend to do more with less. You’re not alone in that.”
At the behest of Councilmen Withelder and Brian Wursten, Mesa View Regional Hospital Chief Executive Officer Ned Hill discussed with the council and public the difficulties in recruiting and retaining physicians in Mesquite.
Acknowledging that Mesquite has a doctor shortage Hill said he and his staff are involved in “heavy, heavy physician recruitment.” He said that one suggestion is to use Rural Development Agency grant money to offset some of the cost of housing.
Hill said that the increased cost of living, primarily housing, is difficult for doctors from the mid-west or south to absorb. While compensation and salary ranges don’t fluctuate a lot, Hill said “the cost of living fluctuates drastically as it pertains to homes.”
Hill corrected a misconception about medical care providers being paid less in Mesquite than other places. “That’s generally not accurate. Our wages are higher than in Intermountain Health Care [in Utah]. It’s not a matter of the hospital not being able to pay them.”
While Withelder was in favor of using RDA money to offset housing costs, with a reimbursement plan, Councilman George Rapson disagreed. “I caution about using RDA money to help someone buy a house. That becomes very subjective at some point.”
Hill said Mesa View is very open to bringing in nurse practitioners, physicians assistants and doctors who are interested in part-time work. “Part of our success in recruitment is working very hard at it. There is nothing in Mesquite that will prevent us from bringing health providers here.”
Hill said one of the major hurdles in recruiting any type of provider is the licensing process they must go through with the state. He said that even though the person may already be licensed in another state and have extensive experience, it may take anywhere from three months to a year to obtain a license in Nevada. Insurance credentialing takes another three months after licensing is done.
Councilman Dave Ballweg made a motion to have the city’s lobbyist draft a bill for the upcoming legislative session that would help streamline the medical licensing process. “If it’s a problem for us, it’s certainly a problem all over the state,” Ballweg said. “The doctors could be working while the licensing review is going on.”