Endoscopy Center Doc Has Passport FlaggedApr 1, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP A doctor at the center of a Las Vegas hepatitis C outbreak has reportedly had his passport flagged. Should Dr. Dipak Desai, majority owner of the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, try to leave the country, officials in that state would be notified. Unsanitary practices employed at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada have been blamed for several cases of hepatitis C among the clinic's 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 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 March, a seventh hepatitis C victim, who had been treated at a clinic owned by the same group that owns the Endoscopy Center, was identified.
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.
Authorities arranged to have Desai's passport flagged after serving a search warrant at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada last month. While the action would not prevent him from leaving the country, it would allow investigators to attempt to interview Desai before he left the country.
Nurses have told health officials they were directed to reuse syringes and single-dose vials of medicine on multiple patients. It still is unclear who told them to do so and whether that was standard policy at the clinic. According to a report in the Las Vegas Sun, at a public hearing last week attended by 200 people, many expressed outrage that Desai was not under arrest and that he still is allowed to practice medicine, though Desai has voluntarily agreed not to do so for the time being.
Last week, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman stated his intention to have the city subpoena Desai and other doctors who own the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada to testify at a hearing at which the city will consider rescinding the Endoscopy Center’s business license. To keep their city business license, the owners of the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada will need to make their case at a public hearing April 7 in the Las Vegas City Council chambers. The city had suspended the clinic’s business license on February 29, as well as that of its related practice, the Gastroenterology Center of Nevada. So far, neither Desai nor any of the other doctors involved with the clinic have made public statements about its practices.