Second Hepatitis C case diagnosed at BHC clinic
1/16/2013 6:00:00 AM
By Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa
A second person treated at the Ear & Sinus Center of the Southwest in Bullhead City has tested positive for Hepatitis C.
Las Vegas attorney Gerald Gillock said his client was treated at least nine times at the clinic, including several procedures with an endoscope.
An endoscope is a flexible tube with a camera and sometimes surgical instruments that doctors can use to check out the insides of the sinuses, throat, windpipe and colon. In November, The clinic sent letters to its patients saying that its staff may not have followed proper sterilization procedures for its endoscopes and recommending tests for a variety of diseases, including Hepatitis C.
Gillock is fairly certain his client's infection came from the clinic.
"He was involved in an accident many years ago and had several surgeries. Each time he went in for surgery, his blood was tested for diseases like Hepatitis C," Gillock said. "His blood work came back clean each time."
When his client received two letters in November, one from The clinic and the other from the doctor, saying the clinic may not have followed proper cleaning procedures, he got tested. The test came back positive, Gillock said.
Gillock is no stranger to lawsuits involving Hepatitis C. He is one of several attorneys involved in a 2008 case filed against a clinic in Las Vegas.
That case involved a clinic that reused bottles of anesthetic and spread the disease to several patients, he said. The ongoing case has resulted in several $100 million settlements from the clinic and the drug manufacturer.
Gillock has some of the same questions of the Bullhead City clinic as Robert Mosier, an attorney who is representing a Bullhead City woman who also tested positive and is suing the clinic - how many people were infected, and what went wrong?
He said he wouldn't know the answers to those questions until he can see the medical files and talk to the Mohave County Public Health Department.
Mohave County Nursing Services Manager Christine Bronston said the county is not responsible for inspecting or investigating medical facilities.
"Any complaints we get are passed along to the Arizona Department of Health Services," she said.
ADHS was contacted several times for comment but did not respond before press time.
However, ADHS does list inspections for the last three years of a medical facility's history online.
The online record for the clinic only lists one inspection report for Oct. 29, 2012.
According to the Arizona Secretary of State's website, Ear & Sinus Center of the Southwest and its owner, Bullhead City Clinic Corp., were incorporated in the state in 2008.
The 2012 report did not list any problems with the clinic.
Gillock is also suspicious of the letters that were sent out to patients.
"It's hard to know why these letters were sent out," he said. "You don't see clinics or doctors sending out letters like these. Something has to happen. They usually have to be ordered to send out something like this.
"You also don't very often see doctors blaming the clinic like this one does in his letter," Gillock said, referring to the letter from clinic's doctor, Dr. Terrance Kwiatkowski.
Kwiatkowski's letter states, "I had no reason to believe that the policies established by BCCC regarding the appropriate cleaning of scopes utilized in my professional practice would become an issue that may have inadvertently put my patients at even the most minimal amount of risk."
Gillock is hoping to gain access to the clinic's medical records on Friday.