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Witness in hepatitis C trial: ‘I don’t remember’

A veteran nurse anesthetist who worked for Dr. Dipak Desai during the 2007 hepatitis C outbreak had trouble Monday recalling on the witness stand damaging information she provided Las Vegas police about his injection practices.

Even when a prosecutor cited transcripts of her October 2008 interview with detectives, Linda Hubbard said she couldn’t recall making the statements.

“It was almost five years ago,” Hubbard told Chief Deputy District Attorney Pam Weckerly. “I don’t remember those things.”

She said she couldn’t recall anything of substance attributed to her in the interview.

Several questions had to do with what Hubbard told police about the practice of reusing syringes in bottles of the anesthetic propofol at Desai’s now-closed Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada on Shadow Lane.

Prosecutors contend the practice was unsafe and spread hepatitis C.

On cross examination, Hubbard, who has more than 30 years experience as a nurse anesthetist, said the infections could have occurred through contamination of multiple-use saline containers or dirty scopes, a theory the defense has argued. When pressed later by Weckerly, she admitted she did not do any independent research into other ways the virus could have spread.

Hubbard, who was not given immunity for her testimony, lost her Nevada license when the endoscopy center closed in early 2008 following the public disclosure of the outbreak.

She worked closely with Desai’s co-defendant, nurse anesthetist Ronald Lakeman.

Desai, 63, and Lakeman, 65, are standing trial in the courtroom of District Judge Valerie Adair on more than two dozen charges, including murder, criminal neglect of patients, theft and insurance fraud.

The charges focus on the cases of seven hepatitis infections health officials linked to the endoscopy center. One of the patients, Rodolfo Meana, died last year.

Another nurse originally charged in the high-profile case, Keith Mathahs, 76, pleaded guilty and testified for the prosecution earlier in the trial, which began April 22.

Desai, who surrendered his medical license after the outbreak was disclosed, operated the endoscopy center like an assembly line, hurrying procedures that put profits above the well-being of his patients, prosecutors contend.

Prosecutors plan to continue presenting their case for another three to four weeks. With a week of expected defense testimony, the trial could spill over into July.

On Tuesday, prosecutors plan to call physicians with the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta to the witness stand.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135. Follow @JGermanRJ on Twitter.

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