Tuesday, March 18, 2008 | 5:30 p.m.
CARSON CITY ‹ Tensions escalated Tuesday between Gov. Jim Gibbons and the state Board of Medical Examiners officials he wants to replace, with the panel's executive director saying Gibbons is trying to use the board as "the scapegoat for his ineptitude" in addressing a hepatitis scare.
An emergency meeting has been called by the state Board of Medical Examiners for noon Wednesday to determine the next steps in its investigation of the dangerous practices at a Las Vegas clinic that resulted in at least six patients contracting hepatitis C.
Tony Clark, executive director of the examiners board, said his staff has tried to question at least six physicians who worked at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, but attorneys for the doctors refused them.
In addition to the six hepatitis cases already detected at the center, 40,000 other patients have been notified that they should be tested.
Health district officials told Clark County commissioners Tuesday they are "pretty confident" that a seventh case of hepatitis C, dating back to 2006, has been discovered at the Desert Shadow Endoscopy Center of Nevada at 4275 Burnham Ave. in Las Vegas. It is owned by Dr. Vishvinder Sharma and Dr. Om Hari.
Gibbons, meanwhile, said he still has not received the requested resignations of Clark and three members of the nine-member board. If they fail to resign, Gibbons said, he will look at how they could be fired.
Gibbons wants to replace board president Dr. Javaid Anwar, Dr. S. Daniel McBride and Dr. Sohail U. Anjum, board vice president, because of their association with Dr. Dipak Desai, major owner of the endoscopy center.
Clark said he has sent Gibbons 14 names of northern Nevada doctors to sit temporarily on the board in place of the three in question for potential disciplinary cases.
But the governor wants the three board members and Clark to step down, saying they failed to "live up to their obligations" in overseeing the clinics.
The governor also has directed Mike Willden, director of the state Department of Health and Human Resources, to fire Lisa Jones, head of the Bureau of Licensing and Certification that oversees the clinics. Jones, a 29-year employee with the state, had been the bureau chief for five months when the unsanitary conditions came to light.
Gibbons says he wants Clark’s resignation because he did not act promptly in taking disciplinary action against those involved in the clinic.
“Gibbons does not know what my job is,” Clark responded.
As soon as the story broke about the six infected individuals and the 40,000 clinic patients being notified, Clark said he assigned an investigator.
He said the governor was trying to minimize the fact that Desai was an election supporter, a campaign contributor and an adviser to the governor when he took office.
“Maybe the governor ought to resign,” Clark said.
Desai voluntarily agreed to stop practicing. But Clark said he could not get the other doctors who worked at the clinic to limit their practices.
Local government, not the governor and his administration, closed the clinic, he noted.
“We have done everything we could to protect the public,” Clark said. “He’s (Gibbons) making us the scapegoat for his ineptitude.”