Three withdraw from inquiry

Three members of the board that regulates Nevada's doctors have recused themselves from an inquiry into the care provided at a clinic where authorities believe six patients contracted hepatitis C.

Drs. Javaid Anwar, Sohail Anjum and Daniel McBride recused themselves to avoid any public perception of bias or impropriety, said Tony Clark, the executive director of the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners. The members have recused themselves from any action, decision or adjudicative function in relation to the inquiry into the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada.

As an example, Clark said Anjum, a cardiologist, recused himself because he operated on one or more of the 14 physicians linked to the Gastroenterology Center of Nevada, the umbrella of three ambulatory surgical centers and several medical offices.

Anwar is president of the medical board. Anjum is vice president.

McBride, who met with the Review-Journal's editorial board this week, has called himself a close friend of Dr. Dipak Desai, majority owner of the Endoscopy Center on Shadow Lane.

The investigation into the hepatitis C cases has led to a massive public health alert, the closure of the clinic and several of its affiliates, and a review of all 50 of the state's ambulatory surgery centers.

Criminal probes also have been initiated.

Last week, Desai voluntarily agreed to stop practicing medicine.

Dr. Ron Kline, secretary of the Nevada State Medical Association, said the recusals were "the appropriate thing to do."

"Anyone who has ties to Dr. Desai or any of the doctors involved should do the right thing," he said.

The other doctors affiliated with Desai's business continue to practice medicine, but Clark has asked them to refrain from performing surgical procedures in ambulatory surgery centers or their offices.

As of Friday, no agreement had been reached between the medical board and the doctors.

"We are asking them to only do emergency surgeries in hospitals where they don't have control over protocols,'' Clark said. "I don't have that locked up from all partners yet. There were a number of owners of the clinics that we are dealing with as well as about 15 attorneys.''

Clark said the medical board doesn't want to completely shut down the medical practices of the physicians because patients still need to be seen. He said Desai was asked to quit practicing medicine because he is the focus of the investigation.

Clark said he has asked Gov. Jim Gibbons to appoint three new doctors to the medical board to replace Anwar, Anjum and McBride during future proceedings relating to physicians with the endoscopy centers.

"We are also recommending that the governor appoint physicians from Northern Nevada as replacements because the doctors involved are from Southern Nevada,'' he said.

In the meantime, Clark said the medical board's investigation team continues to look into possible medical practice violations by the doctors. The board has subpoenaed the medical records of all six patients who contracted hepatitis C.

The process that can lead to a physician having a license suspended often takes months.