Patient records difficult to get, attorney says

A lawyer representing former patients in connection with hepatitis C cases linked to a Las Vegas endoscopy clinic told a judge Tuesday that records of as many as 200 patients cannot be found.

Attorney Ed Bernstein asked District Judge Allan Earl to hold a meeting with entities that might have records of patients who had procedures at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada and affiliated clinics.

“We are having a real difficulty in getting records,” Bernstein said

Dozens of lawyers filled a Clark County courtroom in a hearing related to the slew of lawsuits filed after the Southern Nevada Health District urged in February that 40,000 clinic patients — individuals who had procedures since 2004 — get tested for possible exposure to hepatitis and HIV.

Health officials have linked eight hepatitis C cases to the Endoscopy Center on Shadow Lane and one to the Desert Shadow clinic on Burnham Avenue.

Attorneys representing patients, doctors and the Endoscopy Center, were on hand for the afternoon gathering before Earl, who handles complex litigation cases.

Bernstein said action must be taken on finding the records because malpractice legal cases must be filed within a year of discovery of the alleged malpractice.

“We found out about this in February, so we’ve only got a few months left,” Bernstein said after the hearing. “You have to remember that we have to have experts go over these cases, so it’s not something we can just do overnight.”

Earl agreed that some action must be taken on the question of medical records but did not set a date for a meeting.

“It is extraordinarily difficult to extend the statute of limitations (for filing a lawsuit),” Earl said.

Earl told Bernstein that he understood that the district attorney’s office had many records as part of a criminal investigation. And Earl said that criminal investigators “couldn’t care less” about the status of civil litigation.

Acting on a tip that patient records might be destroyed, authorities seized more than 2,000 file boxes of records March 10 from six Gastroenterology Center of Nevada offices, the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada and the Desert Shadow Endoscopy Center.

In April, the Metropolitan Police Department finalized a contract with ChartOne, a medical records company, to organize the seized records.

A spokeswoman for ChartOne, who would give her name only as Beverly on Tuesday, said in a phone interview that her company has records from 2006 to 2008 and “maybe a few from 2004 and 2005.”

Many patients have been able to get their records from ChartOne.

She said other patient records still “are on hand at the Gastroenterology Center of Nevada and other places, but that’s all I know.”

Attempts to reach a spokesman at the Gastroenterology Center were unsuccessful.

“It’s hard to believe we’re still in this kind of information mess eight months after we learned about this tragedy,” Bernstein said.

“I go to one place for records, and they tell me to go to another, and then I end up with nothing.”

Contact reporter Paul Harasim at pharasim@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2908.

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