Health Care In Vegas: Roll Them Bones, Baby, And Collect Your Hepatitis C

This morning’s Globe carries an Associated Press story by Kathleen Hennessey on the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, which was shut down last Friday for unsafe medical practices.

The clinic reused syringes and medication vials over a period of four years. Thousands of people are at risk of infection with hepatitis and HIV, and several cases have already been confirmed.

The substance of the story is disturbing enough. Two other elements also give pause.

First, there’s this:

Health inspectors say they observed clinic staff using the same syringe twice to extract anesthesia from a single vial, which was then inappropriately used to treat more than one patient. The practice allows contaminated blood in a used syringe to taint the vial and infect the next patient.

Health inspectors stood there and watched? They said nothing? They did nothing? If that is true, then someone needs to ask if those inspectors are still employed as health inspectors instead of working on a garbage collection route.

The other question about the story concerns what isn’t present.

No mention of corporate entanglements, if any. Who owns the company? Who are the managers involved? Not one single name of managers or owners. Nothing. Nada. Nowhere. Perhaps the AP owns a piece?

The only mention of management comes at the end of the story.

In Las Vegas, clinic staff told inspectors they had been ordered by management to reuse the vials and syringes. [Brian] Labus [senior epidemiologist at the Southern Nevada Health District] described the practice as an unwritten, but long-practiced policy.

The Lion thinks it fair to ask who the Associated Press is protecting, or if there is some legal rationale for abrogating the public’s right to know who was involved in putting the public at risk, why the AP didn’t express that in the story. [See note below]

It would also be interesting to know how much public funding was involved. Medicare. Medicaid. Were these people defrauding those programs, effectively handing out death sentences for profit? Not unusual for American corporations, to be sure.

One thing is certain. The lawyers can’t pass this off as an aberration and pin it on ‘one bad apple’, like the government did with Abu Ghraib and other American hellholes. Four years of violating basic medical practice isn’t about some idiot at the bottom. Four years takes it right to the top of the company. Whoever they are.

Late Note:

The Globe apparently cut the following from its version of the AP story:

The clinic’s majority owner, Dipak Desai, a political contributor and member of the governor’s commission on health care, has refused to comment on the allegations.

He released a statement expressing concern for the patients and assuring the public the problems had been corrected. He later took out a full-page ad in Sunday’s edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal insisting that needles had not been reused and that the chances of contracting an infection at the center in most of the last four years were “extremely low.”

The Globe also failed to note that five affiliated clinics had been closed.

The Globe did a disservice to the AP by chopping the story as they did. One would hope that the AP will continue to dig into the story, particularly the juicy part that Desai is a political contributor and a member of the governor’s commission on health care.

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7 Responses

  1. Well, apparently the Globe has been cutting the feeds from the AP wire. My local rag frequently does that, too. However, here’s a quote from the AP story, as it appeared in numerous newspapers:

    The clinic’s majority owner, Dipak Desai, a political contributor and member of the governor’s commission on health care, has refused to comment on the allegations.

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  2. Ex –

    I found the cut material in the Providence Journal just before logging in and reading your message. The whole cut is posted at the end of the piece.

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  3. Well that’s fucking scary, and so is the reusing needles bit.

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  4. Yeah, and it would be nice to know if this guy has any medical interests outside of Nevada. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to walk into any clinic he might be associated with.

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  5. Good Lord! Our food and toys are poisoned, now our health care providers are injecting us with dirty needles…! Life is a crap shoot.

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  6. Next thing you know they’ll be using dirty needles to inject poisoned food into our lead-covered toys.

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  7. It’s only a matter of time before our needles come from China, too, so they won’t even be safe for the first go around, let alone the 2nd.

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