October 31, 2008

Contact 13 Investigation Part II: Valley Eye Center and Vikas Jain

Contact 13 Investigation Part II: Valley Eye Center

Lasik is one of the most popular elective surgeries in the world, it is supposed to allow you to trade in your glasses or contacts for near-perfect vision.

Some say one local eye center is putting profits above patient care.

Contact 13's Darcy Spears has been investigating this case for three months.

"I wish I never got it," said Joanne Olimpo. 

"The pain that I felt was excruciating," said Brandon Nybakken.

The men and women Contact 13 spoke to are all patients who say they chose Valley Eye because it's affordable, but now they say that choice has cost them their sight.

"Now I have major pains, I cannot drive, I am legally blind," said Adam Gruszecki. 

The Lasik surgery center on North Tenaya is run by Vikas Jain, a man who has been run out of other states, his license to practice medicine surrendered or supsended.

In Ohio it was permanenty revoked in 2005 for what authorities there called "sloppy, shoddy, slash and dash patient care." That did not stop him from opening a Lasik center in Las Vegas.

"An individual who had had his license permanently revoked for harming 22 patients should not be allowed to continue to be involved in a practice," said Kristine Maxwell.

"Their allegations were near ludicrous. Most of those patients were not harmed," said Vikas Jain.

Long before the Ohio Medical Board took action against Vikas Jain, he caught the attention of ABC's Primetime Live.

In 2001 they featured Jain on hidden camera preparing to do Lasik surgery on a woman who other experts said did not qualify for the procedure, had not been properly screened and would likely have been permanently harmed. Jain says competitors have been out to get him for years.

"This story is about the politics of the business of medicine," said Jain.

How Valley Eye practices medicine in Las Vegas is now under scrutiny by numerous state agencies.

The medical board is looking at why Dr. Stella Chou, Valley Eye's former surgeon, signed patient charts for days when she wasn't even in the state.

The optometry board is looking at a written admission from former Valley Eye optometrist, Dr. Elise Millie, that she forged Chou's name on a prescription for steroids.

State law says, "signing the name of another person on any prescription for a controlled substance" is a felony. Neither Milley nor Chou returned Contact 13's calls for comment.

There are allegations in lawsuits that Vikas Jain directed staff members to fraudulently use yet another doctor's prescription pad.

"I am not at liberty to comment on that," said Jain.

He also would not talk about his family's new botox cosmetic venture operating out of Valley Eye or the other two Lasik centers he runs in other states.

"Really (I am) not at liberty to talk about those," said Jain. 

Attorneys Joe Huggins and Kristine Maxwell represent a number of local patients whose cases Jain also will not talk about due to pending litigation.

They are taking action, but remain concerned about the state's failure to act quickly to protect the public.

State authorities have known about complaints against Valley Eye Center for more than a year.

"The Attorney General has known about this for some time. The Nevada Board of Medical Examiners has known about it for some time. We would have presumed that something would have been done a long time ago," said Huggins.

Louis Ling is Executive Director of the State Board of Medical Examiners.

"The allegations that I have been hearing regarding this matter are troubling. Obviously that is not what we expect of physicians in the state of Nevada," said Ling.

Jain is not an actively licensed physician in Las Vegas or anywhere at this point. He says our state's investigation and those conducted elsewhere are about one thing.

"This story, making Lasik affordable, I was punished for this before, already in Ohio. This story really, ok, is about the politics of the business of medicine," said Jain.

Vikas Jain is not a licensed doctor and because he is not, the medical board has no jurisdiction over him.

The Attorney General's office is responsible for investigating whether he is illegally practicing medicine, which they are actively doing now.

"I understand from our board's perspective the frustrations that these patients have to be feeling because everybody's telling them that there are all of these agencies out there that are supposed to be helping them, protecting them, and it does not seem to them like that is what is happening," said Ling.

"I cannot believe that the state allows this. I see these commercials on tv and think, what, are these people crazy? Hurry! Go down to Valley Eye Center and let them butcher you," said Dawn Bornheimer.

"It amazes me that they are still allowed to practice," said Nurit Saadya. 

"How many more people have to get hurt and damaged and their lives ruined for the state to shut this guy down," said Brandon Nybakken.

Vikas Jain says his surgery centers both in Las Vegas and in California have done many thousands of surgeries and he says most patients are happy. As for the unhappy patients, he noted that Lasik is not a perfect procedure but wouldn't comment further due to pending and potential litigation.

Although the State Health Division has ordered Valley Eye to stop operating until they get licensed as a refractive surgery center, other state investigations are still ongoing.

Contact 13 has learned that there should be more news on that front soon.

Vikas Jain is also facing ten lawsuits here in Nevada and according to patients' attorneys, there may be up to 50 on the way.

His Lasik first center in California is also named in a malpractice lawsuit.

Keep it tuned to Channel 13 Action News. 

Posted by Admin at October 31, 2008 02:52 PM