Metro Says Investigation Hampered by Health District - 8 News NOW

Aaron Drawhorn, Reporter

Metro Says Investigation Hampered by Health District

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In a letter to the health district and to city and county leaders, Metro says they are now three weeks behind in getting 1,400 patient requests filled. In a letter to the health district and to city and county leaders, Metro says they are now three weeks behind in getting 1,400 patient requests filled.
Many showed up Monday to get the latest on the investigation, and they learned their medial records are still not ready. Many showed up Monday to get the latest on the investigation, and they learned their medial records are still not ready.

The criminal investigation into the hepatitis C crisis has hit a roadblock and Metro says the health district is at fault.

That accusation comes as the health district confirms another case of hepatitis C linked to the clinics said to have reused syringes and vials on patients. There are now 8 hepatitis cases linked to the clinics run by Doctor Dipak Desai.

Many showed up Monday to get the latest on the investigation and they learned their medial records are still not ready. In a letter to the health district and to city and county leaders, Metro says they are now three weeks behind in getting 1,400 patient requests filled.

Police seized 2,000 boxes of medical records from clinics, like the Endoscopy Center more than a month ago. Sorting through all that paperwork continues to be a long process, but police push on.

"It's been difficult, to say the least," said Capt. Al Salinas.

When police started seizing medical files in the wake of the hepatitis scare, they got more than they bargained for -- some 100,000 medical files, all now evidence.

"Rather than see those files altered or destroyed, we felt it necessary to take possession of them, to safeguard them, and of course, they are part of our criminal investigation," said Capt. Salinas.

But managing those files and patients requests for records has not been easy.

"This is very costly. Funding is an issue, but the sheriff has made the decision to move forward with this," said Salinas.

Meantime, Eyewitness News has learned Sheriff Doug Gillespie even fired off a letter expressing Metro's frustration with the health district when it comes to dealing with these records.

That letter has not been made available to the public yet.

Bottom line, Metro, not the health district as first thought, will now contract with a company to organize these seized files.

"In researching the legal issues that are tied to this, because we are looking at protected patient information, we did determine that we just didn't have the legal authority to actually take on possession or liability for these records," said Jennifer Sizemore with the Southern Nevada Health District.

Metro testified before a legislature committee that the delay in indexing the records has been long. Delay or not, the criminal investigation is still on.

"The primary charge that we're looking at right now is criminal neglect of patient," said Clark County District Attorney David Roger. "Who knows how many people who may have suffered some harm as a result of the alleged conduct?"

Police hope to have a contract with this medical records company by week's end. The goal is to have all of the medical records indexed in 30 days. So far, only 50 records have been released to patients.

County Manager Virginia Valentine reacted to the pending contract with the medical records company. "For the people affected, this can't happen soon enough. We certainly wish that this could have been addressed sooner. And we still believe the health district is the proper agency to enter into this contract," Valentine said in a statement to Eyewitness News. 

"The health district is the agency with the regional authority and jurisdiction on health issues that affect this community. The cities and county have exercised the full extent of their authority in closing the clinics. This may be new territory for them, but I would hope they could fulfill this role to address the health records issue," said Valentine.

Email your comments to Reporter Aaron Drawhorn

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