HMO Defends Itself Against Hep C Allegations

LAS VEGAS -- Health Plan of Nevada is firmly defending itself against allegations it knew Dr. Dipak Desai, a former gastroenterologist, practiced dangerous medicine.

Attorneys for the health maintenance organization presented their opening statements Thursday in the latest hepatitis C trial.

Two of Desai's former patients who now have hepatitis, a viral infection, are suing Health Plan of Nevada, claiming the HMO knew Desai was a threat.

Health Plan of Nevada attorney Peter Bernhard said they had no way of knowing about Desai's wrongdoing, and that the person to blame is Desai himself.

"I think it's clear he was consciously hiding his misconduct from people that were qualified to evaluate what was going on in his clinic, including the medical professionals who were looking at what he was doing," Bernhard said.

The plaintiffs' attorney, Robert Eglet, disagreed.

"They were put on notice that there were problems," Eglet said. "And they never did anything. They never once investigated. They never looked at the records. … They never stopped by the (endoscopy) center to check any of this out."

Desai is scheduled to go on trial later this year in criminal court for his alleged role in a patient's death from hepatitis C.

This civil trial against Health Plan of Nevada is expected to last weeks.


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