Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada Results in Shake-Up at State AgenciesMar 18, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP The fallout from the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada hepatitis outbreak continued yesterday, as the governor of Nevada fired the head of the state's Bureau of Licensure and Certification, and called for the replacement of three other doctors who sit on the Board of State Medical Examiners, as well as the head of that board. However, none of those individuals has resigned, and two charged that the governor is playing politics by asking for their removal.
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. 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.”
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.
Earlier this month, the health district sent letters to some 40,000 patients treated at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, warning them that they should be tested for hepatitis B, C and HIV. Last week, several trial lawyers in the state reported that they were representing nearly 100 former clinic patients who tested positive for blood borne diseases that they suspect originated at the Endoscopy Center. Most of those patients have hepatitis C, but some have HIV, the lawyers said.
Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons yesterday ordered the removal of Lisa Jones as head of the state Bureau of Licensure and Certification. The bureau oversees clinics in the state, including the Endoscopy Center. But three doctors on the state Board of Medical Examiners who Gibbons wants replaced didn't resign immediately. Drs. Javaid Anwar, S. Daniel McBride and Sohail Anjum already had recused themselves from any board meetings dealing with the Endoscopy Center. Gibbons wants the three doctors replaced because of their associations or business dealings with Dr. Dipak Desai, owner of the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada. Gibbons also is seeking to replace Tony Clark, the medical board's executive director.
According to the Associated Press, McBride termed the governor's move "outrageous," adding that he won't step down and accusing Gibbons of "trying to inject politics into the board process." He said that if the Board of Medical Examiners seemed to move slowly on the hepatitis issue, it was because Gibbons' Board of Licensure and Certification delayed informing the examiners' panel until after stories of the problem broke.
Clark is also refusing to go quietly, saying he would only resign if asked to by the board. Clark also said he believed the governors call for him to resign was part of political vendetta. Clark, formerly Nevada's adjutant general, ran the state Air and Army National Guard when Gibbons, a decorated military pilot, was ordered to retire as Air Guard vice commander in late 1994. But the governor said that his calls for Clark to be replaced have nothing to do with that incident.