|I have been following with great interest the news of the whistleblower former CIA worker, Edward Snowden, who allegedly disclosed top secret national security programs.Mr. Snowden reported to some news media that he disclosed secret documents because innocent citizens deserve to know who is being investigated. He also stated that the public should have the power to decide whether or not they are willing to sacrifice their privacy to the surveillance state.Thinking about the now-closed Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada on Shadow Lane in Las Vegas — once owned by Dr. Dipak Desai and three other doctors — tied to the hepatitis C outbreak in 2007, I wonder if people will choose to think of the well-being of others, or if they’ll think it’s not worth it to be a whistleblower.
It is a shame that in a place where 70 colonoscopies and upper endoscopies were performed on a daily basis in the name of greed — procedures that destroyed so many lives and caused the death of at least one — there was not one honest person who decided to come forward with information for the benefit of the public, until now; now that immunity has been granted to many long-time employees. Having a whistleblower back then could have avoided the heartbreak now of knowing that one is infected with an incurable disease.
At the beginning of 2008, the Southern Nevada Health District had to send notices to almost 40,000 patients informing them that they may have been exposed to Hepatitis C and HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) for unsafe injection practices and the administration of the anesthesia medication propofol that might have exposed patients to the blood of other infected patients.
Partner doctors, nurses and gastrointestinal technicians that have been employed for as long as three and four years and were well aware of the shoddy medical practices and unsafe conditions of the center kept silent and forgot the oath they took to care for people, to not do any harm, and certainly to not put them in a position that could lead to a sure death.
None of them had the integrity to call the Health Department, the Attorney General’s Office, or the Medical Board — not that the Medical Board was going to do much, because that organization normally protects their members, regardless of the situation; but at least, had they called, it would be on record that they did in fact inform someone when the scandal exploded.
Dr. Dipak Desai and one of his nurses are standing trial in District Court on more than two-dozen charges, including murder and criminal neglect of patients. Apparently, Dr. Desai is also facing charges of theft and insurance fraud in Federal Court.
Personally, I condemn Dr. Desai for his inhumane practices, but I don’t praise the parade of former employees now testifying against him in court, either.
If they can now sit on the witness stand and testify that he was cheap, wanting to save every penny from every angle, that he performed procedures that required 20 to 30 minutes in 5 minutes and inflated the amount of time to defraud insurance companies, that the procedure room was filthy, and many other things — they are as guilty as Desai. They talk about those things behind his back, but none of them had the integrity to denounce that wrongdoing in the open — most importantly, the doctors who partnered with him. Were they afraid of his bad temper? That is no excuse, since they also drank from that same well.
Many of the nurses and technicians stopped working when the authorities closed the center; until then, they never complained about the conditions of the place. They were just conspirators in the same crime.
Money, money, money is always the name of the game for the greedy.
I believe Edward Snowden did the right thing by letting the American people know what the government was doing to all of us.
If the partners and employees at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada had known how to wear their pants and had stood up for all those patients, the story would have been completely different.
Perly Viasmensky is the General Manager of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Perly Viasmensky, email her at pviasmensky@lasvegas tribune.com.