Plaintiffs claim HMO knew of dangerous practices - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

Hepatitis C Trial

Plaintiffs claim HMO knew of dangerous practices

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LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -

Jurors in the latest trial surrounding a hepatitis C outbreak heard testimony from Dr. Dipak Desai's co-worker on Tuesday. The testimony could potentially hurt Health Plan of Nevada's defense.

Two women who have hepatitis C are suing the health maintenance organization. They claim the HMO knew about Desai's allegedly dangerous medical practices. 

"The room nurses didn't like his speed and couple of other issues," said former gastroenterologist technician Melvin Hawkins. 

Hawkins worked with Desai at Southwest Medical Associates and then at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada. On Tuesday, he testified Desai would perform 20 colonoscopy procedures in one afternoon. The plaintiff's attorney, Robert Eglet, did the math for the jurors and said those procedures lasted nine minutes. Eglet claimed it was four to five times faster than what any other GI doctor would do in an entire day.  

"They knew that far back he was performing these quick colonoscopies - these speedy colonoscopies and not providing good diagnosis for these patients," Eglet said.  

Eglet said those procedures were for Health Plan of Nevada patients and the HMO's vice president was aware of it. 

"They just can't put the worst doctor in the world on their provider list knowing he's providing dangerous procedures," said Eglet. "They can't send their insured members there and not expect to have some responsibility." 

Health Plan of Nevada spokesman Tyler Mason maintains Desai duped everyone, including them.  

"Dr. Desai had criminal intentions and hid this," Mason said. 

Mason argued Desai lied about his procedures and how he scheduled them. He said his lies made it hard for Health Plan of Nevada to realize what was going on. 

"We have to remember Dr. Desai changed the times on some of his times in some of his materials," said Mason. "We wouldn't have caught it when he's billing for 31 minutes as an example of some of the activity to deceive us." 

Mason also said when they found out about Desai's practices, they quickly ended their relationship. The civil trial is expected to last weeks.

Desai is facing criminal charges related to the hepatitis C outbreak. He is scheduled to go to trial later this year.

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