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Nevada Clinic at Center of Hepatitis Outbreak Under Investigation for Medicare Fraud

Mar 10, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP The Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada in now being investigated by the FBI and Nevada state officials for Medicare fraud.  News of the Medicare Fraud investigation comes just weeks after the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada was closed, after it was learned that unsanitary practices employed by the clinic could have expose 40,000 people to hepatitis C, and other potentially deadly blood borne diseases.  Already, six cases of acute hepatitis have been linked to the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada.

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.   According to the Southern Nevada Health District, a total of  six people 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 statement said.

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 Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada was closed and fined $3,000 because of these practices.  The owner of the clinic, prominent gastroenterologist Dipak Desai, has refused to answer questions about the outbreak. Unlike some nurses at the clinic, Desai has not surrendered his medical license. He agreed to "voluntarily cease the practice of medicine" until the state Board of Medical Examiners completes its investigation, the board said Friday.

Now the Endoscopy Center is being investigated for Medicare fraud.  Officials from the FBI and the state of Nevada want to know if the Endoscopy Center charged for two vials of medication, when it was allowing vials to be shared between patients.  Six other clinics associated with the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada were also served with search warrants in the Medicare fraud investigation.

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