Eye doctor abandons plans to buy clinics

A Las Vegas ophthalmologist no longer plans to acquire two ambulatory surgery centers associated with the hepatitis C outbreak, he said Friday.

Dr. Rudy Manthei, who last month told the Review-Journal that he was considering purchasing equipment and assuming the leases at Desert Shadow Endoscopy Center and Spanish Hills Surgical Center, said he has dropped the plan because the facilities aren't equipped for procedures other than endoscopies.

"I really want to stick with multispecialty surgery centers," Manthei said.

Both facilities are owned by Dr. Dipak Desai, who operated the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, where health officials say six people contracted hepatitis C last year because of unsafe injection practices.

Manthei, founder of Nevada Eye & Ear and principal owner of Seven Hills Surgery Center, said he believed reopening the centers under new management would allow for expansion into other areas of outpatient surgery.

"These centers are ... not designed for providing other surgical services," he said.

Word of Manthei's interest in purchasing the centers, as well as the possibility that he would hire some of the physicians who had worked for Desai, caused some in the public and the medical community to question his motives.

But Manthei said his decision not to acquire the centers had nothing to do with the investigation into unsafe practices there.

Desai's entire practice and its 13 physicians remain under investigation by the state's Board of Medical Examiners and law enforcement.

Earlier this week, two Clark County District Court judges blocked Desai and Dr. Eladio Carrera from practicing medicine in Nevada by issuing temporary restraining orders.

The Board of Medical Examiners also has lodged formal complaints against Carrera, 54, and Desai, 59, saying each doctor performed procedures on three patients who contracted hepatitis C because of unsafe injection practices.

To date, the Southern Nevada Health District has linked another acute hepatitis C case to the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, on Shadow Lane, in 2005 and one to the Desert Shadow Endoscopy Center in 2006.

Health authorities believe the six people contracted hepatitis C last year when nurse anesthetists reused syringes and single-dose vials of medication at the Shadow Lane facility.

The outbreak led to 40,000 letters being sent to former patients of the facility by health care officials urging them to be tested for blood-borne diseases including hepatitis C, a potentially fatal condition that attacks the liver.

Contact reporter Annette Wells at awells@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0283.