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Who is To Blame For Las Vegas Hepatitis C Crisis?

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, May 19, 2008 8:23 AM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family, In The Workplace
Tags: Infection Control, Hepatitis, Las Vegas, Colonoscopy, Medical Malpractice, Wrongful Death

The CDC identifies the likely causes of contamination in the hepatitis C outbreak in Las Vegas.  



IMAGE SOURCE: Creativecommons.org/ flexible endoscope/ author de:benutzer:Kalumet


The first official report is in on who is to blame in the Las Vegas Hepatitis C outbreak, the largest hepatitis C scare in U.S. history that has more than 40,000 scrambling to find out if they have the infectious disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that health care workers at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada routinely failed to practice basic standards of infection control.

In all about 400 cases of hepatitis C have been identified - 85 cases of hepatitis C likely resulted from the lacking standards at the Endoscopy Center and a sister clinic.   Seven cases are directly linked, 78 individuals have no other risk factors for the infectious blood-borne hepatitis C other than their visit to the endoscopy clinic for a colonoscopy or other diagnostic procedure.

The others may have some complicating risk factors for hepatitis C such as injected-drug use or multiple partners.  

Workers from the CDC were called in to observe the clinic in January after two people were diagnosed with hepatitis C. Generally no more than four cases are reported all year.  

There the CDC observed several missteps that include:  reusing a syringe if more medication was needed; workers routinely failing to wash their hands and wear gloves when administering medication; IV equipment was not properly cleaned; the disinfectant bath for cleaning colonoscopy equipment was reused; and vials were reused – that is just some of went on behind the doors of the centers, owned by Dr. Dipak Desai, who is now prevented from practicing medicine.

Backflow from the reused syringe could easily infect a vial of sedative, the report concludes and “this was considered the most likely mode of transmission”.

Dr. Desai reportedly routinely boasted he ran the most cost- effective clinic in the country according to health care workers.  

The Las Vegas Sun reports that one nurse told a patient, when he complained he was going to sue for a bandage that came loose while at home,  “You ought to sue us for a lot of other things that go on here…“You don’t know what goes on here. I hate my boss.”

The patient dismissed her as a disgruntled employee. 

The clinics have been closed and Dr. Desai has been fined $500,000. He recently was stopped from exporting two of his personal vehicles, luxury Mercedes, out of the country and into Dubai.

But that is just the beginning of his troubles.

Patients are also being tested for blood-borne infections, HIV and Hepatitis B, though no cases have been found. More cases are expected among patients of the clinics and/ or their partners since these are contagious diseases.

Several class action lawsuits are underway and law enforcement both local and federal are investigating the clinic and Dr. Desai and his partner Dr. Eladio Carrera, for possible fraud connected to the clinic. Dr. Carrera has also had his medical license suspended.

There is no cure for hepatitis C which causes swelling of the liver, stomach pain, and jaundice. It may eventually lead to liver failure.

For consumers who do file a lawsuit, the state legislature passed emergency tort reform in Nevada in 2004 creating a cap of $350,000 for pain and suffering resulting from medical malpractice.  

The largest hepatitis C outbreak occurred in Nebraska in 2001 where 99 patients were infected at an oncology center and at least one died. 

Better surveillance, education and oversight is needed to prevent another hepatitis C outbreak in Nevada, according to a federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

Recently, New York hospitals began finding ways to greatly reduce hospital infections. # 

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