State health division cites businesses for illegal surgeries

State health officials delivered cease-and-desist letters today to two Las Vegas retail stores suspected of operating as illegal and unlicensed surgical centers.

Authorities said they took the action after gathering information from a female victim of a botched surgery at Botanica Maya, 5347 E. Lake Mead Blvd., Suite B. They also found medical waste in the store and in a trash bin behind the business, near Nellis Boulevard.

“What was going on here was totally wrong,” owner Adam Padilla said today. “I opened my eyes to what was going on and put a stop to it. Well, the police opened my eyes.”

Padilla, a Las Vegas resident, said he has owned Botanica Maya for five years. He said the business, which operates seven days a week, sells herbs and vitamins to its Hispanic clientele. He said his father owns the other business, Botanica San Francisco, 2645 S. Nellis Blvd., Suite D, near Sahara Avenue, but did not reveal his name.

Padilla said Las Vegas police told him about the botched surgical procedure, which took place June 19.

When asked what type of surgery the woman had undergone, Padilla said, “I have no idea, because I was not here.” He also said he did not know who performed the procedure.

Ben Kieckhefer, a spokesman for the state Health Division, identified the surgery as a gynecological procedure “to remove an abscess.” The patient told authorities that surgeries also were being performed at Botanica San Francisco.

Surveyors with the Health Division’s Bureau of Health Care Quality and Compliance delivered cease-and-desist letters to both locations while conducting investigations at the businesses.

“During their inspection, investigators at the Lake Mead Boulevard location found a log containing names, dates and prescribed medications, as well as a cache of Spanish-label medications and equipment, including antibiotics and lidocaine,” according to a statement from the Health Division. “Those medications were confiscated by an investigator from the State Board of Pharmacy.”

No medical supplies were located at the Nellis Boulevard location during today’s inspection.

“The store owner was present during the inspection at the Lake Mead Boulevard store and stated that he was aware of the medical procedures taking place in the back of the business,” according to the Health Division’s statement.

Adam Padilla contradicted that information during a later interview with the Review-Journal. He said he knew only about the June 19 procedure, which he learned about from police.

The owner said he had been spending only about half an hour a day at Botanica Maya. He recalled seeing bloody rags at the business on June 19.

Three women outside Botanica San Francisco identified themselves as employees this afternoon and said in Spanish that the store had just been closed by Clark County officials. They declined to give their names or be interviewed further.

According to the statement from the Health Division, Botanica Maya and Botanica San Francisco were ordered to stop operating as unlicensed, illegal ambulatory surgical centers. Both businesses are licensed as health food and vitamin stores by Clark County.

“Individuals who have sought medical treatment at either of the two businesses are urged to be tested for exposure to infectious diseases given the potential for unsanitary conditions at the locations,” according to the Health Division’s statement.

Padilla said he fired everyone who was working at his store on June 19, including his stepmother, Patricia Padilla, who managed the business. He said the business remains open.

Today, the store’s shelves were stocked with groceries, vitamins, candles and other goods. A sign outside the store read “hierbas y medicinas naturales” — “herbs and natural medicines.”

Spokesman Bill Cassell said Las Vegas police responded to a call involving a person needing medical assistance on June 19 in the 5300 block of East Lake Mead. He said he does not know who made the call.

“Our extent was to stand by while the emergency medical response crews provided medical attention to the victim, and after learning enough of the story to realize what was going on, we referred it to the Clark County Health District, along with several other agencies,” Cassell said.

The spokesman said the state attorney general’s office and the appropriate medical regulatory authorities will have the responsibility of determining whether any crimes were committed.

Kieckhefer said the attorney general’s office is reviewing the case to determine whether any criminal charges are warranted.

Conrad Hafen, chief of the attorney general’s criminal bureau, declined to comment on the possibility of criminal charges.

Kieckhefer said a 911 call on June 19 led rescue workers to a Hispanic woman who was bleeding heavily. She was taken to a hospital for treatment.

He said no one notified the Health Division about the allegations of illegal surgical procedures until Thursday. He said Republic Services contacted the Southern Nevada Health District on Wednesday after finding medical waste at Botanica Maya.

Review-Journal writers Paul Harasim and Lynnette Curtis contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135.

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