Public Health Crisis Due to Negligence at Endoscopy Center
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that a campaign to notify 40,000 patients of the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas that they may have been exposed to Hepatitis B, C and HIV is the largest ever in US history. Nurse anesthetists reused syringes when administering anesthesia to patients, contaminating the vials containing the medications used in procedures. The vials are intended for single use. The standard of care for decades has been to use a new syringe for each patient. So far, five of the nurses have voluntarily surrendered their licenses, being cited with dangerous and irresponsible practices. Health officials claim that reuse of syringes and vials was common practice and that endoscopic equipment was not cleaned properly between procedures. The turn around time between patients has been reported to be as low as 15 minutes - not nearly enough time to clean instruments to code.
Six people have been diagnosed with acute Hepatitis C and hospitalized. Hepatitis C is a potentially fatal blood-borne virus that can result in liver failure and cancer. The incubation period for Hepatitis C is 6-8 weeks but for HIV it can be years. Exposed patients are being advised to practice safe sex and use condoms. Health care workers are reporting that in addition to testing, people need counseling because they are understandably upset and afraid.
HOW TO CONTACT THE HEALTH DISTRICT
If you or someone you know has received medical services at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada between March 2004 and Jan. 11, 2008, call the Southern Nevada Health District's hot line at 702-759-4636 or visit southernnevada healthdistrict.org.
Dr. Dipak Desai, 65% owner in the center, allegedly ordered them to reuse the vials on multiple patients to cut costs. Dr. Desai is also part owner of Spanish Hills Surgical Center in southwest Las Vegas and Gastroenterology Center of Nevada, which has multiple locations. The clinics remain open and the public is calling for the clinics to foot the bill for the testing. The Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners is investigating the doctors involved in the case. Las Vegas police and county prosecutors opened criminal investigations into the case. It is a broad based investigation, looking into every possibility of criminal negligence and wrong-doing. The attorney general's office and the Medicaid office are reviewing the case for insurance fraud.
As of March 5, 2008 multiple clinic offices were closed, citing a public health emergency and what Senator Townsend called "...the largest breach of public trust in the history of the state..."
This follows on the heels of an FBI probe into insurance fraud in Southern California doctor owned surgery centers. Blue Cross and Blue Shield assisted in the investigation - a case in which thousands of patients from 47 states were sent to California for unnecessary surgeries and diagnostic procedures, resulting in more the $1 billion in fraudulent claims. 21 doctors and 9 clinics are involved. Recruiters located patients in places like Boston, determined that they had insurance coverage, and arranged transportation to California for them to have colonoscopies and other procedures. Millennium Outpatient Surgery Center is named in the criminal case filed by the US attorney in Los Angeles.
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