A trustee in the bankruptcy cases involving medical clinics at the center of last year's hepatitis outbreak obtained a court order Tuesday that compels Dr. Dipak Desai to appear for the trustee's detailed questioning into the financial affairs of the clinics.
If that examination by Brian D. Shapiro is carried out -- he wants it done before a scheduled Aug. 24 creditors' meeting -- it would be the first time that Desai answered any questions revolving around the clinics named in patient lawsuits.
"I want to find out in detail what actually happened to all the money related to the clinics," Shapiro said.
Desai was the key financial and administrative figure at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, Gastroenterology Center of Nevada, and Desert Shadow Endoscopy Center, which all filed Friday for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Shortly after the Southern Nevada Health District's February 2008 announcement that 40,000 patients might have been exposed to hepatitis C, HIV and other blood-borne diseases, all three clinics were shut down.
The Southern Nevada Health District has genetically linked nine cases of hepatitis C to unsafe injection practices at two of the clinics. An additional 105 cases have been characterized as possibly related.
Bruce Thomas Beesley, Desai's bankruptcy attorney, said Tuesday that Desai would show up for what amounts to be an under-oath deposition, but he also said it is too early to say whether the physician who suffered a stroke last year would answer questions.
He noted that Desai's wife, Dr. Kusum Desai, signed the bankruptcy documents instead of her husband "because she didn't think his medical condition allowed him to take care of a bankruptcy."
The issue of Desai's competence to handle legal matters has already arisen before the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners.
The board has ordered testing to determine if Desai can assist in defending against possible action involving his medical license.
Beesley said it's possible that Desai's attorneys will present medical evidence about his stroke to the bankruptcy court in an attempt to keep the doctor from having to answer questions.
The first civil trial involving a patient infected with hepatitis C, which is scheduled for October, could be delayed because of the bankruptcies, which automatically postpone any lawsuits involving the clinics.
A bankruptcy judge must lift the postponement before civil lawsuits can proceed.
In the bankruptcy filings, the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada listed $35,079 in assets and $303,256 in liabilities.
The Gastroenterology Center listed $4.6 million in assets, of which $4.4 million was uncollected patient and insurance bills. It listed $667,073 in liabilities.
The Desert Shadow clinic listed $176,237 in assets and $297,947 in liabilities.
Contact reporter Paul Harasim at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2908.