Earlier this month, several clinics owned by Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada were shut down due to a hepatitis outbreak at their Shadow Lane location. Now it’s come to light that the clinic’s majority owner, Dr Depak Desai has political ties to Nevada governor Jim Gibbons. Dr. Desai served on the governor’s health care transition team before he officially took office in January of last year, which may explain the governor's defense of the clinics early on. Gibbons expressed his concern that Nevadans wouldn’t seek medical help over the media’s “buffoonery.” On the other hand, he asked that three members of the state board of medical examiners to step down that have ties to the hepatitis scare at Clark county endoscopy clinics. One of the three is also the Chief of the Bureau of Licensing and Certification. Gibbons also stated, ”more inspections by more state staffers may not have stopped clinic practices that led to a recent hepatitis outbreak in Las Vegas” last week, despite having fought for a plan for more medical surveyors in 2007. However, he had also stated about their actions "that does constitute a criminal act" and those responsible "must be held accountable." A flip flop of his other statements....
Another Hepatitis case confirmed
The latest case brings the total to 7 confirmed cases of the disease and the first death. James Cromwell passed away due to liver disease secondary to hepatitis C. His wife, Janice has filed a wrongful death suit against Endoscopy Center. As with the other cases, the victim’s blood work never showed hepatitis C before he visited the clinic. Mr. Cromwell had passed away in May of 2006. Mrs. Cromwell also intends to file a police report, hoping murder charges will be brought against the doctor involved.
Robert Cox may be the next person added to the list of victims. He underwent two procedures at the Desert Shadow Endoscopy Center on Burnham Avenue several years ago. Prior to those procedures, he had never tested positive for hepatitis. Mr. Cox was diagnosed with hepatitis C in 2005 and sought additional testing after receiving a letter from his medical provider urging him to do so. Mr. Cox’s test came back positive for hepatitis B as well. The results have been forwarded to the health department for investigation. Mr. Cox said the doctor who performed the procedures was Dr. Vishvinder Sharma, who recently resigned from the State Medical Board on March 7 and was a partner of Dr. Depak Desai.
Nevada clinics not the first
This type of outbreak is nothing new. Back in October of 2002, the New York Times ran a piece about 10 cancer patients that may have contracted Hepatitis C from a Nebraska clinic. The clinic was reusing hypodermic needles. The clinic owner, Dr. Javed fled to Pakistan and was not heard from again. The next month, a survey by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) in Illinois found that 1 in 100 healthcare providers were using the same needle on multiple patients. "There is no excuse for ever reusing a needle or syringe on different patients," said Rodney Lester, CRNA, PhD, president of the 30,000-member AANA. "It is most disturbing that even 1 percent of the healthcare providers surveyed do this, potentially exposing millions of patients each year to needles and/or syringes contaminated with Hepatitis, HIV, or other life-threatening infectious diseases."
So this has been a known issue, well documented and the consquences known. I have a feeling that if other states start inspecting clinics they might find the same practices.