Hepatitis Investigations Running at Slow Pace - 8 News NOW

Edward Lawrence, Reporter

Hepatitis Investigations Running at Slow Pace

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Two types of criminal investigations are moving forward against doctors and nurses at local surgical centers. The first is criminally negligent health care and the second is insurance and Medicare fraud.

The investigations stem from unsafe medical procedures at local surgical center's that transmitted hepatitis to at least eight people. None of the certified registered nurse anesthetists have come forward to offer help in prosecuting doctors.

Over the next five weeks, the nurses will be asked to come in to talk to the District Attorney, or see a subpoena if they refuse. A source close to the investigation says they will be given a choice -- do they prefer to be a witness or a defendant?

The scope of the criminal investigations into the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada reaches from the district level, to the state level, to federal authorities. All of the investigations are moving forward at the same time.

"From my perspective, it's the financial fraud crime. Besides my office, we know there is Medicare fraud going on, so that is a financial crime," said Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto.

Masto has investigators working with the U.S. Attorney's Office. She has a number of staff members dedicated to pouring over insurance claims to determine what services were provided.

Masto would not say when there may be arrests. Her office is looking at all the centers in the health crisis and the practices of reusing syringes, single dose vials of medicine, and not properly washing surgical tools.

"It's been months. It is just a matter of how quickly we can get through the documents," she said.

The Clark County District Attorney's case is moving just as slow, mainly because attorneys need to sort out the witnesses from the defendants. The criminal case for healthcare negligence is focusing only on the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada.

The nurses involved in the unsafe procedures so far have not come forward to help authorities, but other staff members with knowledge of procedures have come forward and will testify.

Charges against three or four doctors and three or four nurses at the center are expected to come in the late summer or early fall.

Next week, Metro Detectives will go to Atlanta to interview doctors for the CDC who helped with the state inspections. The doctors will name names of who they saw perform unsafe procedures at the Endoscopy Center before it closed.

The interviews will be used as evidence in a criminal trial.

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