Las Vegas CBS KXNT- Former employees of Dr. Dipak Desai’s endoscopy clinic took the witness stand on Wednesday in the criminal case against him, giving their recollections of clinical practices that have become notorious since the valley’s 2007 hepatitis C outbreak.
Some of the testimony bolstered Desai’s reputation as a business operator who watched every penny, hounding employees to use less of every supply, and to reuse medical implements that were intended for single use. Former clinic technician Danial Sukhdeo related an incident in which Desai scolded him for discarding a tube containing remnants of K-Y Jelly. Desai demonstrated to Sukdheo how to retrieve the last trace of the jelly by twisting the tube, he said.
Desai’s penchant for cost-cutting is key to the prosecution’s case, because it bears on the clinic’s internal policy governing Propofol, the sedative patients were given prior to colonoscopies. Propofol bottles intended for use on a single patient were used on more than one patient if the bottle still contained some of the drug. Investigators from the Center for Disease Control identified this process as the “most likely” cause of the hepatitis C outbreak that was traced to Desai’s clinic.
A woman who worked at the endoscopy clinic as a discharge nurse testified that she was instructed to fill idle time with a task called pre-charting. Johna Irvin said that a supervisor showed her how to mark charts, noting a patient’s post-operative condition before the procedure had begun.
Irvin said she refused to engage in pre-charting, because it’s illegal. She said after she refused, she was not asked again.
A former associate of Desai’s was grilled by both sides. Dr. Carmelo Hererro said he did not witness any unsafe practices at the clinic. He confirmed that Desai had decided to replace small bottles of Propofol with larger ones because it would be less expensive, but said if he’d ever seen unsafe administration of the drug, he’d have halted it, and reported it.
Hererro was asked whether he ever observed feces on the floor and walls of the procedure rooms, or on the gowns of the staff, a narrative element that’s a staple of the litigation surrounding the hepatitis C outbreak, and has gotten repeated media coverage. Hererro said he had not.
Desai and former nurse anesthetist Ronald Lakeman are facing charges of criminal negligence and second degree murder for their alleged roles in the spread of the hepatitis C virus to 7 patients on two days in 2007. One of the patients has died.