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Safety breaches at clinic cited in order to close

A Las Vegas medical clinic was ordered by state public health officials to shut down Tuesday because it was allegedly performing surgeries without a license.

Clinica de Mujeres, 3700 E. Charleston Blvd., near Pecos Road, received a cease operations letter after authorities investigated a complaint about abortions being performed in an unsafe environment.

The doors to the small clinic in a deteriorating shopping center were locked late Tuesday afternoon, but there was no sign outside indicating the facility was closed. Only a withered paper sign touting the facility’s services in Spanish — "Confidential, Professional, Economical" — was on the door.

Ben Kieckhefer, a spokesman for the Nevada State Health Division’s Bureau of Health Care Quality and Compliance, said the complaint about the clinic was not made by a patient, but by someone with knowledge of its operation.

"No one who complained had a bad outcome," he said. "But there was a gross breakdown in infection control practices."

That breakdown, he said, included breaches in providing sterile packaging and not having a manual or policy for a machine used to sterilize equipment.

Kieckhefer said the owner of the facility is Dr. Vickie Mazzorana, whose name cannot be found among the licensed physicians listed on the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners’ Web site.

State investigators believe she is licensed, Kieckhefer said.

The Review-Journal profiled a physician with the same name on June 28 as part of a series on women in boxing. The story said Mazzorana joined the Nevada Athletic Commission’s medical staff last year.

Kieckhefer said it’s his understanding the clinic’s owner and the physician profiled are the same person.

Attempts to reach Mazzorana for comment late Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Kieckhefer said investigators also believe the clinic was dispensing medication without a license, and that information has been forwarded to the state Pharmacy Board.

According to a news release from the health division, the facility "appears to be licensed as a clinic" by the city of Las Vegas. But any facility performing surgeries for ambulatory patients is required to be licensed as an ambulatory surgery center by the state, "which Clinica de Mujeres is not," the release said.

Findings from the inspection will also be forwarded to the Board of Medical Examiners as well as the state attorney general’s office.

In the past two weeks, the state health division has issued cease operations letters to three other facilities in Las Vegas because of allegations of unlicensed surgeries. At one of those, Botanica Maya on East Lake Mead Boulevard, action was taken after officials gathered information on what was described as a botched gynecological surgery.

Kieckhefer said all four of the facilities have had infection control problems that put patients at risk.

Conventional wisdom among state health investigators, Kieckhefer said, is that there might be more unlicensed surgical centers in Las Vegas.

Kieckhefer said people have to be alert such facilities exist.

"They have to know that there is unsafe medical care out there," he said. "It is safe to assume that major medical centers are licensed but people have to check beyond that."

Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Lawrence Mower contributed to this report. Contact reporter Paul Harasim at pharasim@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2908.

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