Endoscopy Center: A Seventh Hepatitis C Victim

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Las Vegas, NVAs the tragedy and the controversy related to unsafe medical practices at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada continues to unfold, a public hearing Monday attended by many of the potential victims of the hepatitis C scare saw the center formally lose its business license, and pay a fine worth a half million dollars.

That's not enough for the patients, many of whom are a part of the 40,000 Endoscopy Center patients at risk, and currently being tested for hepatitis C. They want criminal charges and indictments.

Syringe PreparationThey may get their wish. A criminal investigation of the Gastroenterology Center of Nevada's clinics, an umbrella organization to which the Endoscopy Center belongs, is currently underway.

The Endoscopy Center has been making headlines since early January, when an investigation was launched after health officials learned of three people diagnosed with hepatitis C following treatment at the center. Six patients were ultimately identified, five of whom were treated at the center the same day in September. The sixth was treated at the facility in July.

Last week it was revealed that a seventh victim, not treated at the Endoscopy Center but infected at a similar clinic owned by the same group, has contracted hepatitis C.

Following an investigation the Southern Nevada Health District concluded that unsafe injection practices at the clinic "might have exposed patients to the blood of other patients." This included re-using syringes while administering anesthesia medication. While the needle itself was always changed, the syringe was re-used and could become contaminated from the backflow of blood, from patients with a blood-borne disease. That same syringe would then be used to inject another patient with medication, but medication potentially mixed with the blood of someone else.

What's more, the clinic stands accused of re-using single-dose vials of medicine. Such vials are designed to mitigate cross contamination, as does the correct practice of using fresh needles, and fresh syringes for every patient. However, someone with an eye to the bottom line would note that money could be saved by re-using syringes, as well as single-dose vials of medication. Noticing that a vial will almost always have medication left over but is disposed of anyway; costs could be lowered by making sure that all medication from a vial is used.

So far there is no assumption, or accusation as to why these illicit practices were observed beyond the allegations brought forth from the investigation. However, since the initial announcement, other less-than-stellar and ultimately dangerous practices have been brought to light, including the re-use of biopsy equipment labeled for single use (after disinfection), as well as the multiple use of bite blocks, which are inserted into the mouths of patients for certain procedures.

The Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada together with an affiliated clinic, both owned by Dr. Dipak Desai, has their business licenses suspended February 29th. However, at the hearing April 7th those business licenses were formally revoked, and a $500,000 fine was levied and duly paid.

Civic officials articulated that the money might go towards offsetting the cost of blood tests on the 40,000 patients of the center at risk for hepatitis C. Others have speculated that it would cost exactly that--$500,000—for the hiring of an outside entity to organize the medical records confiscated by police as part of the investigation.

Meanwhile a class action lawsuit has been filed, alleging gross negligence. So far, seven patients have been identified as having contracted hepatitis C. As the 40,000 potential cases are tested and analyzed, that number could grow.

Endoscopy Center Legal Help

If you have suspect you have been exposed to Hepatitis C during a visit to the Enscopy Center, please contact a lawyer involved in a possible [Endoscopy Center Lawsuit] to review your case at no cost or obligation.

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