Las Vegas Sun

July 29, 2014

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Veterans, Nellis personnel being checked for hepatitis

Two local veterans who were treated at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada have tested positive for hepatitis C, Veterans Affairs officials reported.

Dr. Ramu Komanduri, chief of staff of the VA Southern Nevada Health Care System, said the two cases have been reported to the Clark County Health District, which is attempting to determine whether they are related to treatment the veterans received at the Endoscopy Center, run by Dr. Dipak Desai.

Komanduri said veterans have greater risk factors for hepatitis C than the general population, making it more difficult to link the two cases to the Endoscopy Center at 700 Shadow Lane.

VA officials stopped referring patients to Desai’s clinic after the Health District put out its alert in February that patients there may have been exposed to the life-threatening hepatitis C and HIV virus, Komanduri said.

Letters were mailed in February advising 1,341 veterans treated at the facility to get tested. About 40,000 veterans are under VA care in the valley.

The two positive hepatitis C cases, which were discovered last week, were among the test results received by some 700 of the 1,341 veterans who were screened, Komanduri said.

The VA, Komanduri said, had been referring patients to the Endoscopy Center and other clinics not identified in the health scare since January 2007.

From 2002 to 2006, Desai had a $500,000-a-year-contract to provide physicians to treat veterans at a VA-run gastroenterology clinic at Flamingo and Pecos roads, Komanduri said.

The VA shut down the clinic in November 2006, he said, because under its city license the number of procedures it could perform were limited.

Komanduri said there are no reports on file indicating that any substandard practices were taking place at the clinic from 2002 to 2006.

The hepatitis scare, meanwhile, has also spread to Nellis Air Force Base. Letters were sent March 5 to 1,800 military personnel and family members treated at the Endoscopy Center advising them to get tested for hepatitis C and HIV, Nellis officials said.

The letters were sent one day after Tricare, the company that manages the base’s health care system, canceled its contract with the embattled Desai clinic, amid the growing health crisis, officials said.

Staff Sgt. Travis Edwards said the testing was recommended to anyone who received anesthesia injections at Desai’s clinics dating back to March 2004.

About 60,000 people live at the base.

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