Hepatitis C Linked to Vegas Endoscopy Clinic


March 19, 2008: Another Hepatitis C Case Linked to a Las Vegas Endoscopy Clinic:

A criminal investigation is ongoing as a result of another report of an endoscopy clinic and its link to an infection of hepatitis C in at least one patient, and officials have stated that the evidence in this case that links the clinic in question with the ultimate diagnosis is clear-cut in nature.

The clinic is known as the Desert Shadow Endoscopy Center, 4275 Burnham Ave. in Las Vegas, and the patient received treatment in the summer of 2006, which is a full year prior to the outbreak of six cases of hepatitis C that were linked to the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada on Shadow Lane.

The reason for the criminal investigation is because the doctor who originally diagnosed the patient from Desert Shadow was required to report the diagnosis to state health officials, and that was not done, which results in exposure for criminal liability. Desert Shadow had already had its business license restricted as a result of an inspection performed earlier this year, and the disclosure of this latest case of hepatitis C came during a hearing with officials from Clark County regarding the continuation of the restriction of this business license.

The Desert Shadow clinic is managed by Dr. Vishvinder Sharma and the Hari Om Limited Partnership, which lists as general partners Desai, his wife, Dr. Kusum Desai, and Dilip Patel. Records that are relevant to this recent outbreak are in the custody of the Las Vegas police and the FBI, and criminal charges could result based on the failure to report the case.

If you or anyone you know visited this clinic at any recent time, you need to obtain an immediate medical evaluation to determine if you have been infected with either hepatitis C or HIV.

March 17, 2008

In a new development in the story of a south Nevada Endoscopy Center has entered the picture.

Lawyers representing the victims are trying to unravel the liability insurance now, they’ve uncovered a mere $3 million in malpractice-insurance coverage at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, where as many as 40,000 locals were at risk of exposure to hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.

This amount comes to about $75 per affected patient — not even enough to cover the cost of hepatitis and HIV tests which can run $275.00 per test.

More controversy is seen, is that Dr. Dipak Desai, the majority owner of the endoscopy clinic, served on the board of directors of the doctor-owned insurance company that covered his center.

“It’s interesting that (Desai) is on both sides of this controversy,” said Richard Harris, managing partner of the Richard Harris Law Firm in Las Vegas. “He’s the target of the action, yet he’s a director of the insurance company that will determine who’s going to get paid.”

Eglet included the company, Nevada Mutual Insurance Co., in a class-action lawsuit he filed Monday. He’s alleging that Desai, as a board member, was regulating himself and other defendants in the Endoscopy Center case.

Officials today issued a warning for up to 40,000 people in and around Nevada who may have been exposed to the hepatitis C virus. It is estimated that this number of patients visited the Endoscopy Center of Nevada between the dates of March, 2004 and January 11, 2008, who needed an injection in furtherance of administration of anesthesia.

The Nevada State Bureau of Licensure and Certification (BLC) collaborated with federal officials from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to formulate these findings. Officials reported and released two specific findings. First, five of the six patients confirmed to have contracted hepatitis C visited the center on the same day. Secondly, the problem centered upon improper techniques that were used for these anesthesia injections, thereby exposing the patients to potential health problems.

Officials from the Southern Nevada Health District further announced that based on these findings, anyone who falls into this class of people needs to schedule an immediate appointment with their doctors to perform a test for hepatitis C, hepatitis B and HIV.

And here is the company’s response:
On behalf of the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, we want to express our deep concern about this incident to the many patients who have put their trust in us over the years. As always, our patients remain our primary responsibility and we have already corrected the situation.

The recent events related to the Southern Nevada Health District study mark the first time anything like this has ever happened at our facility. We have already taken steps to ensure that it will never happen again.

The health district began its investigation in January, and we have been fully cooperating with them. We were officially notified by the health district on February 6, 2008 and submitted our detailed Plan of Correction on February 15, 2008. All concerns noted by the health department were addressed immediately. We continue to work closely with the Southern Nevada Health District and other health agencies during this ongoing review. We want to be sure that every patient who may have been exposed is informed and tested.

To help us with these issues, we have engaged the services of nationally renowned experts who have extensive epidemiological experience and that have worked closely with the Centers for Disease Control in the past. They include Dr. Janine Jason, CEO of Jason and Jarvis Associates. She is a Harvard Medical School-trained physician, epidemiologist, and immunologist who served as a medical scientist and senior epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and was on the Emory Medical School faculty for 23 years prior to becoming a private consultant. Dr. Jason has authored more than a hundred peer-reviewed medical and epidemiologic scientific articles.

In addition to our corrective actions, we are on a mission to maintain the trust our patients have had in us during our years of service to southern Nevada.
We wish to emphasize that the actual risk of anyone being affected by this is extremely low, but as a precaution, anyone who has undergone procedures at the Endoscopy Center who required anesthesia should be tested.

As Im sure you understand this situation brings with it a number of complex elements including patient privacy and regulatory guidelines. At this time, our counsel has asked that we limit our comments to this statement, and we are unable to take questions.
Thank you.

CORRECTION: Earlier this blog said Health officials say that practitioners were routinely using the same syringe on more than one patient, which is widely known to pass on infection. Actually, the same syringe was not being used on multiple patients. But single dose vials of medication, which had become infected through their initial use, were being used again. Health officials say this is widely known to pass infection.