Hepatitis Scare May be Much More Widespread Than Thought

Tens of thousands of valley residents are being tested for hepatitis and HIV after being treated at a local clinic, but they may just be the tip of the iceberg. Patients who visited the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada between 2004 and 2008 were told to be tested, but the clinic has been open since 2000, leaving four more years in question.

Some patients from before 2004 are now coming forward saying they are positive for hepatitis C and they want to know why the health district isn't warning others.

Larry Estrada used to be perfectly healthy. But he's been battling hepatitis C for nearly five years and has gotten grim news from the doctor, "This was in November. He said, at most, I had a year."

Estrada believes he was infected at the Endoscopy Center in 2003, but the health district has only identified dangerous medical practices there since March 2004.

Another seriously ill patient who visited the clinic in 2002 asked to not be identified.

"I was down to 87 pounds and two weeks to live and it was all due to hepatitis C," she said. "Fortunately, I did receive a liver and kidney transplant in time and here I am today, five years later. But it's been a long five years."

According to a health district memo, the clinic started reusing syringes after a remodeling in March of 2004.

"We don't have any indication that they were conducting those practices before that time," said Jennifer Sizemore with the Southern Nevada Health District. "We can only act on the information that we have available to us."

Attorney Ed Bernstein believes the health district's dates are wrong.

"That's not to imply to any of your viewers that if you had a colonoscopy or endoscopy prior to 2004 that you're safe," he said.

Bradley Mainor represents Estrada and feels they still have a case against the clinic, even though it was one year past the statute of limitations.

"Most people don't understand that there's an exception, and the exception is when people conceal information to the detriment of the community, and we believe that's happened here," he said.

Mainor believes doctors concealed information that they committed malpractice.

The health district has asked for patient records before 2004 but the clinic has not turned that over. At this point, they have not interviewed staff members before 2004 or reviewed any records before 2004.

Email your comments to Reporter Aaron Drawhorn


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