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Doc at Center of Nevada Hepatitis C Outbreak Barred from Practicing Medicine

Apr 30, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP The doctor implicated in the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada hepatitis C outbreak won't be able to practice medicine again - at least until a10-count state Board of Medical Examiners complaint against him is resolved.  Dr. Dipak Desai is the owner of the Endoscopy Center, where unsanitary practices exposed thousands of patients to blood born disease.  Desai also runs several other Nevada clinics.  Yesterday, Clark County District Judge David Wall issued a temporary restraining order against Desai, forbidding him from practicing medicine for the time being.

In February, the Southern Nevada Health District sent letters to 40,000 people treated at the clinic, advising them to get tested for hepatitis B and C, and HIV.  The Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada has been under investigation since early January, after health officials learned of three people who had been diagnosed with hepatitis C after being treated there.   

Ultimately, the Southern Nevada Health District said a total of  six people were known to have contracted hepatitis C after being treated at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada.  Five of them were treated the same day in late September; the sixth is believed to have been infected in July, the district said. The Southern Nevada Health District investigation revealed that “unsafe injection practices related to the administration of anesthesia medication might have exposed patients to the blood of other patients.” In February, the Southern Nevada Health District sent letters to 40,000 people treated at the clinic, advising them to get tested for hepatitis B and C, and HIV.

The hepatitis C virus may have been spread when clinic staff reused syringes and used a single dose of anesthesia medication on multiple patients, the district said. A syringe would become contaminated by the backflow of blood when patients with a blood-borne disease were injected with medication, health officials said. That syringe, in turn, would be reused to withdraw medication from a different vial. That vial could become contaminated and result in infection.

The subsequent investigation of the clinic revealed even more substandard practices.  Several staff members told investigators that biopsy equipment labeled for single use was reused for multiple patients after disinfection.   Others reported that they were directed to reuse bite blocks - devices put in patients’ mouths for some procedures - on multiple patients.

Desai now faces a 10-count complaint against him, and on Monday, state Attorney General Catherine Cortez-Masto asked for the restraining order. Cortez- Masto also requested a restraining order against Dr. Eladio Carrera, who worked at and is a co-owner of the center. That request was still pending.

Judge Wall said that the temporary order against Desai was warranted because the Board of Medical Examiners "has demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits" of its complaint against the doctor. He also said "imminent and irreparable harm will result" if the order isn't issued.

Besides the medical board's activity, the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada health crises is the subject of a criminal probe being conducted by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the FBI, Cortez Masto's office and the Clark County district attorney.

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