Two of the state's most influential doctors came under fire Tuesday when lawyers for patients suing the medical clinic linked to a hepatitis C outbreak questioned their inspection of the clinic.
Patti Wise, a lawyer with Bernstein and Associates, said Drs. Javaid Anwar and Ikram Khan should have put a stop to staffers using unsafe injection practices when they inspected the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada and reported their findings to health officials.
"It's almost impossible to believe these medical professionals would go into this facility and see this happening and turn a blind eye," Wise said during a hearing on whether to dismiss Quality Care Consultants as a defendant in a pending class action lawsuit.
The Endoscopy Center hired Quality Care Consultants, which is owned by Anwar and Khan, to review its policies and procedures and make recommendations to meet national standards.
Public health officials who inspected the clinic in January observed nurse anesthetists reusing syringes and single-use vials of medication during procedures, which officials think led to the hepatitis C outbreak and potentially exposed 50,000 patients to blood-borne diseases.
Until recently Anwar was president of the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners. He remains on the board, which licenses and disciplines the state's doctors, but has recused himself from matters related to the Endoscopy Center.
John Bailey, lawyer for Quality Care Consultants, argued that the company should be dismissed from the pending class action lawsuit by non-infected patients because it served only as a consultant to the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada and played no part in conducting medical procedures or changing clinic practices.
"Mere consultants are not liable for giving advice," he said.
The patients' lawyers disagreed.
Gerald Gillock said the company assumed responsibility for the clinic's practices when it took payment for the inspection and ongoing monitoring.
Attorney Ed Bernstein said he was skeptical about the true nature of the relationship between Quality Care Consultants and the Endoscopy Center, which is owned by a group of doctors including Dr. Dipak Desai.
"My gut is telling me it wasn't an inspection entity at all, and there was some other purpose for these monies," Bernstein said, noting the influential doctors involved. "I don't know exactly what it was, but we're going to find out."
After the hearing, Bernstein said he had seen three checks of $12,500 from the Endoscopy Center to Quality Care Consultants. The first two checks were written six months apart. The third check was written a few months after the second, he said.
Bailey strongly defended his clients and called the other lawyers' statements "reckless."
"It's analogous to McCarthyism to stand up and say there must be something wrong because two people know each other," Bailey said. "Don't make accusations you have absolutely no facts to support."
District Judge Allan Earl said he was skeptical of the link between Quality Care Consultants and the hepatitis outbreak but rejected the dismissal motion. He allowed the lawyer to refile the motion with more details about Quality Care Consultants' work and responsibilities at the Endoscopy Center.
"We will be back," Bailey said.
Contact reporter Brian Haynes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0281.