Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada: More Hepatitis C Tests Positive

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Las Vegas, NVThe largest patient notification in US history that centered around the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada continues to worry current and former patients of the facility, that they might be next to receive a positive test for hepatitis C.

The latest count is 84—that's the number of people who are suspected of contracting hepatitis C as the result of unsafe injection practices at the Endoscopy Center. Among the 50,000 current and former patients of the facility who have been contacted, and urged to get screened, about 400 have tested positive for hepatitis.

Blood TestIt has also been confirmed by the Southern Nevada Health District that the hepatitis C virus can be linked back to one person, on a single day, for at least half of the confirmed acute cases, which in late May stood at eight. Seven of the eight confirmed cases linked back to the Endoscopy Center, and four of those seven links to one person on September 21st, 2007.

It is not known who that person is…yet.

Meanwhile, two of the four doctors who own the facilities under investigation have had temporary restraining orders placed against them by the State Medical Board in an effort to prevent them from seeing patients. It has been confirmed, according to a report on the KLAS TV website, that Dr. Dipak Desai and Dr. Eladio Carrera were on duty that day. It is alleged that they were treating patients on September 21st of last year, the day when five patients are known to have been exposed to hepatitis C.

It appears a sixth patient was exposed on July 25th. It has been reported that the Board of Medical Examiners (BME) has filed malpractice actions against both doctors for their involvement in treating patients on dates it identifies as July 25th and September 21st. Desai is the majority owner of the Endoscopy Center, located at 700 Shadow Lane in Southern Nevada.

As an aside, State lawmakers have been critical of the Board, accusing the BME of dragging its feet. The latter was recently devastated by the death of Donald Baepler, the Board's secretary-treasurer and acting President of the BME during proceedings related to the hepatitis C outbreak. Baepler succumbed to lung cancer last month, and a replacement is expected to be in place by June 13th.

To further complicate matters, BME President Dr. Javaid Anwar, and Board members Dr. Daniel McBride and Dr. Sohail Anjum excused themselves from the proceedings, citing relationships with Dr. Desai. There was criticism from State lawmakers that temporary Board members brought in to replace those who had excused themselves, had not yet been contacted about the case. However Tony Clark, the Board of Medical Examiners' Executive Director, has himself taken the brunt of some barbed words and has suggested that the temporary Board members in question would not be contacted anyway, since they are adjudicators of facts.

"They are going to be hearing the case,'' he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "They cannot have any evidence or any facts about this case delivered to them ahead of time.''

Clark also suggested that any critisim aimed at the BME might be an attempt to deflect attention from a brewing scandal involving Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons, amidst accusations from his wife pertaining to an alleged relationship with a married woman from Reno.

All this serves to further complicate an issue that has thousands of Southern Nevada residents fearing for their health. That includes Chris Giunchigliani, the Clark County Commissioner who is both a member of the Southern Nevada Health District Board, and a former patient of the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada. She and her husband were among the initial 40,000 individuals contacted as having a potential risk for contracting hepatitis C.

Several lawsuits have already been launched. That number is sure to multiply in the days, and weeks ahead as trusting patients hold those who should know better, accountable.

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