The doctor at the center of the hepatitis controversy is Dr. Dipak Desai who also had a million dollar contract with UMC. As soon the hospital learned of the outbreak, they cancelled the contract.
"I wish we had other options," said Rick Plummer, a UMC representative.
In UMC'S darkest days of budget problems, Dr. Dipak Desai had the county hospital right where he wanted. He and his 14 doctors already pocketed $220,000 for gastrointestinal work but they wanted more.
"And UMC was really unhappy with the price. It really put us in a bind," said Plummer.
A $1.8 million bind according to Plummer. "None of the other GI physicians in town were interested in taking over the UMC contract."
Desai's group was the biggest game in town. The other only had three doctors. It wasn't that they weren't interested, they simply couldn't compete with Desai.
Eventually the contract was bargained down -- $240,000 directly to Desai and $750,000 for the rest of the work at UMC -- nearly $1 million total.
Plummer says Desai did it because he could. So why did this get approved?
County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani voted for the contract, not knowing the full history of what Desai was trying to pull.
"It was on our consent agenda. I can't even remember if we were briefed. We probably were, but I don't recall that."
No one from staff told her. She says they dropped the ball.
"I think we did. I don't think we were given the information to make a proper decision," said Giunchigliani.
If that wasn't enough, Plummer notes Desai had a clever way of fleecing even more money out of the one-sided deal. Desai would dump uninsured patients off to UMC to pay for, but then would refer insured paying patients to his clinics around town -- 1,400 in all.
Profits over patients, according to Plummer -- a shame to Giunchigliani. "We put him in that place and said okay, now you can basically self-refer and I do think that that's inappropriate," said Giunchigliani.
UMC says Desai performed no procedures at the hospital in 2007, but other doctors did. They say none of the problems of the outbreak happened at UMC. UMC is now asking other valley doctors and the medical school to help with procedures.Email your comments to Reporter Jonathan Humbert.
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