Las Vegas to Subpoena Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada DoctorsMar 25, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP Doctors from the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada may finally be forced to break their silence - at least if the Mayor of Las Vegas has his way. The unsanitary practices employed by practitioners at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada are at the center of a hepatitis C scare that could affect thousands of people. Now, Mayor Oscar Goodman says that the doctors who own the clinic will be subpoenaed to testify at a hearing at which the city will consider rescinding the Endoscopy Center's business license.
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.” Last week, 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.
According to the Las Vegas Sun, Mayor Goodman said the city is in the process of subpoenaing the physicians who own the practice — majority owner Dr. Dipak Desai, Dr. Eladio Carrera, Dr. Clifford Carrol and Dr. Vishvinder Sharma. Ten other physicians worked at the clinics. None of the owners of the clinic has made any public statements since the scandal broke. According to the Las Vegas Sun, Desai has voluntarily agreed to stop practicing medicine during the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners’ investigation of his conduct. The others may still be practicing at other affiliated clinics or in local hospital.
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. The city has alleged that Desai ordered nurses and others at the clinic to reuse syringes in order to save money.