Hepatitis C scare prompts inspections of Carson's outpatient surgery centers

The recent Hepatitis C/HIV scare in Southern Nevada continues to affect local residents.

Reports earlier this month from the Las Vegas Sun that unhygienic practices at a Las Vegas endoscopy clinic put as many as 40,000 people at risk for hepatitis and HIV have prompted state health officials to take action. Now, every outpatient surgery center in Nevada will be up for inspection in the next 30 days.

Reports that one center in Carson City, Sierra Foot Center, has been named as a potential violator were characterized by its attorney as overblown.

"My understanding was it was not an employee of the (center) who re-used a syringe," said Jim Wilson, the local attorney representing the clinic. "The foot center uses a local anesthesiology group services - these are board-certified medical doctors.

"Apparently a couple years ago there were reports that one of those physicians wanted to use the same syringe, but different needle - apparently that was it. There was no reported transmission of disease."

Wilson said the clinic continues to employ the anesthesiology group, but said he did not know the group's name.

He said a recent state inspection has revealed "no concerns."

"The state surveyors were there and left and didn't say anything," Wilson said. "As far as the center knows, they're doing everything OK. We haven't received anything from the state."

Some local patients of the clinic, which is still open, have contacted local health officials, and in at least one case, an attorney.

Angela Frisina, a Carson City resident of 13 years and a self-described regular patient of the clinic for the past year, said she has contacted the clinic and an attorney and is just "waiting for a response."

"I'm just wondering why they're putting it all over the news," she said. "I was told by my doctor that the (incident) happened in 2001. They told me everything's fine from an inspection a week ago. But I'm still wondering why it's in the paper now. So, yeah - I'm worried. Yeah, I'm a little concerned."

In spite of her current worries, Frisina said she hopes the clinic will be cleared and she can stay on as a patient.

"I was in shock when I read about it," she said. "I had to double-check the (clinics') name in the phone book. The people that run it are a good, Christian family. Everyone at the office seems real friendly - it looks real clean. When I had surgery last year, I even commented to my mom how clean it was."

Attorney Wilson said he was "confident" the clinic's name would be cleared soon.

"We'll just continue to cooperate," he said.

Teams from the Centers for Disease Control and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are also coming to Nevada to help with the inspections and see how matters like this can be prevented elsewhere, state officials said.

The problem was first reported when news surfaced that the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, now closed, missed its once-every-three-years state inspections and hadn't been given a proper inspection in seven years, the Sun reported.

The outpatient facility reportedly re-used syringes and also drew medicine for multiple patients from the same vials.

A half-dozen cases of acute hepatitis C have been linked to the clinic.

On the Net

Nevada State Health Division: http://health.nv.gov/

Southern Nevada Health District: www.southernnevada



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