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Hepatitis C in Nevada

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Las Vegas, NVAs is often the case when news of a health violation breaks, the news gets worse before it gets better. Not more than a week after it was revealed that an outpatient clinic in Nevada had been investigated with regard to six cases of hepatitis C potentially caused by the re-use of syringes, comes news that the patients of six other centers may be at risk.

The primary focus of the investigation for the past week has been the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, located on Shadow Lane. However, the doctors who control the Endoscopy Center also own six other centers in Nevada, and there have been reports of more violations at other surgical centers. Sources told Eyewitness News 8, the CBS affiliate in Las Vegas, that the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) is working to narrow the list of patients at risk related to the other clinics.

Hepatitis ShotTo date, there have been six confirmed cases of hepatitis C with respect to patients connected with the Endoscopy Center. Upwards of 40,000 patients who have gone through the center for various ailments and treatment options over the past four years have been notified by the SNHD.

That initial 40,000 call list could be expanded by tens of thousands in the coming days.

At the Endoscopy Center, inspectors found that it appeared to be common practice to re-use syringes. While the actual needles used for injection purposes were never re-used, the re-use of a syringe could result in contamination being passed from one patient to another.

To that end, it has been reported that one syringe in question had been used on a patient with hepatitis, and even though the needle had been changed between injections, the syringe was not, thereby infecting the vial with the fluids of the hepatitis C patient.

In their ongoing investigation of other centers on Nevada, SNHD found a 'lower offense' at the Centennial Spine and Pain Center. A spokesperson at the center told KLAS TV that while needles and syringes were never re-used, the center was engaged in the misguided practice of using single-dose vials of sodium bicarbonate for multiple injections. The center immediately abandoned the practice, and was allowed to remain open.

While the investigation of the suspect clinic(s) continues, the State Board of Medical Examiners is asking the state governor to appoint independent physicians to serve as a special body in the determination as to whether or not doctors found to be re-using syringes should be losing their licenses to practice medicine.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta (CDCP) is conducting an inspection of some 50 ambulatory surgical facilities throughout Nevada, some of which have reportedly not been inspected for 11 years. The State Health Division could not explain why routine inspections had not been carried out for such a long period of time, but did cite a lack of resources as contributing to the issue.

A class action lawsuit has been filed against the Endoscopy Center, alleging gross negligence. As the net of suspicion widens, it would be reasonable to assume that the number of participants in the class action will mushroom.


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