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State health department reports 74 critical restaurant violations

TONOPAH — The Nevada Division of Public Health reported 72 critical violations in the past year in 52 food establishments in Nye County, Joe Pollack, program manager for Nevada Environmental Health Services told Nye County Commissioners Tuesday.

A critical violation is one that has a potential for causing illness to the public, caused by things like improper food handling, ill employees, poor hygiene, rodent and insect infestations. Of those 74 violations, 70 were corrected on site, Pollack said. The other four establishments were put on a compliance schedule.

The 74 critical violations out of 342 food establishments is about equal to the statewide average of 20 percent of food establishments receiving critical violations, Pollack said.

The environmental health section handles food inspections, septic system inspections, public bathing places, recreational vehicle parks, mass gatherings, institutions, drugs and cosmetics and truck wrecks.

The department performed 469 restaurant inspections in the 2013-14 fiscal year, of which 290 were restaurants, bars and caterers, 89 were delis and deli caterers, Pollack said. Four inspectors work Nye County, two from Las Vegas handle the Pahrump area, while the Tonopah area is served out of Fallon, he said.

“We’re happy to say there have been no food-borne illnesses in Nye County in the past 12 months. We have completed 100 percent of our mandated school inspections in Nye County and they were all completed timely,” Pollack said.

Nye County Commissioner Butch Borasky offered the department office space in Pahrump if they would base an inspector here.

“It’s difficult to recruit a registered environmental health specialist to a rural location. We did initially open up our recruitment specifically for Pahrump, to have a candidate live in Pahrump, we did interview several candidates.

“One actually was a Pahrump resident, however we didn’t feel that person was the right person for the job. The person we ultimately hired lives in Las Vegas,” Pollack said.

But he said the environmental health division would be happy to take the county up on its offer of free office space for an inspector to hold face-to-face meetings for perhaps a half-an-hour per day during visits to Pahrump.

The state likewise wasn’t able to attract any inspectors in Tonopah following the resignation of a health inspector there, Pollack said.

County Commissioner Frank Carbone said, “We do have folks that complain about some of the restaurants out here. It would be nice to follow through with what Commissioner Borasky is talking about.”

County Commissioner Donna Cox wanted assurances it was safe for the public to go out to eat, knowing there’s inspectors keeping track of the establishments.

Jo Malay, director of nursing for the State of Nevada Community Health Nursing Program, said a merger with the Division of Behavioral Health gave them the opportunity to serve patients with mental health clinics.

“There’s 76 people living with HIV and AIDS in Nye County. For the last fiscal year the most prevalent infectious diseases in Nye County were hepatitis A and C and influenza,” Malay said.

With the upcoming flu season approaching, health department staff members are gearing up, distributing flu vaccines, she said.

“For the community health nursing clinic we served over 3,600 clients last year and we provided both preventative health services and reproductive health services as well,” Malay said.

Nye County Health Officer Maureen Budahl announced her retirement, Malay said. The state hired a primary care physician who will be helping to cover the Pahrump area, she said.

The Community Health Nursing Program provides children’s vaccines, women’s cervical and breast cancer screening, testing for sexually-transmitted diseases and HIV, reproductive health, men’s testicular exams, family planning and tuberculosis screening.

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