Three Las Vegas Hepatitis C Lawsuits Move Forward

A bankruptcy judge decided Wednesday to allow three civil trials to take place amid the bankruptcy of three medical clinics involved in the 2008 outbreak.

Chief U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Mike Nakagawa of Las Vegas decided Wednesday to allow the first three civil trials to take place in a Hepatitis C scandal that erupted in the city last year. The plaintiffs' lawsuits name the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada and two related clinics that filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection on July 17, 2009, which had automatically delayed the trials. The clinics closed after the Southern Nevada Health District announced in February 2008 that 40,000 patients might have been exposed to Hep C and other bloodborne illnesses, allegedly because nurse anesthetists had been using syringes on more than one patient, according to coverage of the outbreak by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The first trial, set for Oct. 19, is the case of Michael Washington, who was infected with Hep C in a case genetically linked to the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, Brian Haynes and Paul Harasim have reported for the newspaper.

The outbreak was cited in a February 2009 Government Accountability Office study about health care-associated infections at ambulatory surgical centers. More than 5,100 ASCs were operating nationwide and serving Medicare beneficiaries in 2007, and those centers performed more than 6 million surgeries paid for by Medicare that year, according to the study, which recommended collecting comprehensive patient safety data from outpatient centers and regular, random surveys to be done at them. While five data sources exist on health care-associated infections at ambulatory surgical centers, none of them provides information for assessing the extent of the problem nationwide, GAO reported.

The American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities, Inc. is the largest U.S. accrediting organization for ambulatory surgical centers, having been created in 1980 to ensure high-quality patient care in ASCs. More than 1,100 outpatient surgical facilities are AAAASF accredited.

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