Ex-Desai colleagues open new offices

A physician who was part of Dr. Dipak Desai's gastroenterology practice, which is at the center of a massive hepatitis alert, said Friday that he has opened offices in Henderson because patients deserve the best in quality medical care.

Dr. Carmelo Herrero said he and another former associate of Desai, Dr. Albert Mason, will evaluate patients at South Hills Gastroenterology, 2625 Wigwam Parkway, but will not do procedures there.

"We want to get back to the community and give good quality medical care. Our patients deserve the best," said Herrero, who added that he and Mason have not determined whether they will perform endoscopic procedures at hospitals or area ambulatory surgical centers. "I want to assure my former patients that I am here for them."

Other former associates of Desai also are opening offices in the Las Vegas Valley.

According to documents on file with the Nevada secretary of state, Drs. Dipesh Banker, Snehal Desai, Ranadev Mukherjee and Shahid Wahid, all physicians who helped Desai create a multimillion-dollar gastroenterology empire in Las Vegas, have formed a medical company known as Digestive Associates LLP in North Las Vegas.

Yet to open, it will be at 2031 McDaniel Street, near North Vista Hospital.

Those doctors were unavailable for comment Friday.

Another former Desai physician might be preparing to open an office. A business license for Great West Medical Associates, at 5915 S. Rainbow Blvd., is pending. That medical business would be in the suite of one of the gastroenterology offices associated with Desai.

The owner of Great West was not named in state records, but the corporation's name is "Great West Medical Associates (Faris) LLP."

Dr. Frank Faris worked for Desai. He was unavailable for comment Friday.

The fact that former Desai physicians are publicly resuming work in the Las Vegas Valley was troubling to some former patients.

"All those doctors should lose their licenses. They all knew what was going on," said Becky Blessing, who received one of the Southern Nevada Health District's 40,000 letters that were sent to former patients of Desai's Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada on Shadow Lane. The notices urged the patients to be tested for blood-borne diseases, including hepatitis C, an incurable and potentially fatal disease that attacks the liver.

Six cases of acute hepatitis C have been traced to the Shadow Lane clinic, and a seventh is linked to the Desert Shadow sister clinic on Burnham Avenue. Officials have said the cases are linked to risky injection practices at the clinics.

"What do they think we are, idiots?" Blessing asked.

Blessing had a colonoscopy at the Shadow Lane clinic in August. She has tested negative for blood-borne diseases, but her doctor says she must be tested again in six months.

Desai's entire practice and its 14 physicians remain under investigation. Investigators are uncertain which practitioners worked at which clinics for Desai, who voluntarily agreed not to practice until the investigation is completed.

Las Vegas physician Dr. Julian Lopez said Friday that physicians who worked for Desai should not practice locally again.

"They violated the public trust," he said. "We need to get that built back up."

Herrero won't talk about his past affiliation with Desai.

"My lawyers don't want me to talk about the past," he said. "But in the future I will."

Review-Journal writer Brian Haynes contributed to this report. Contact reporter Paul Harasim at pharasim@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2908.