New hepatitis figures

The Southern Nevada Health District last week announced it has identified another 77 patients who received care at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada and may have contracted hepatitis-C there. These cases followed seven earlier cases and the discovery of allegedly shoddy clinic practices that sparked a major probe and inspections of other clinics, as well.

The Center is principally owned by politically well connected Dipak Desai, and the clinic has been defended by Gov. Jim Gibbons, who has received money from Desai. Desai and another physician have been barred from practicing medicine and their assets have been frozen while the inquiry continues, the clinic was fined a half-million dollars, and the money is being used to deal with crisis health conditions in Clark County.

The day after the Health District disclosed the new cases, Gov. Jim Gibbons issued a statement calling the 77 cases “both heartbreaking and disturbing. My thoughts and prayers go out to those infected.” The statement did not offer regrets for his previous comments trivializing the problem. On March 10, arguing against government regulation, Gibbons had minimized as “only six” the cases then known and blamed the press for spreading public concern.