Dr. Dipak Desai frequently complained about employees wasting supplies at his endoscopy clinic, a witness told jurors Wednesday.
The witness, Daniel Sukhdeo, worked as a gastrointestinal technician at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada from August 2007 until a hepatitis C outbreak caused it to close in March 2008.
Sukhdeo said Desai instructed him to use “a very small amount” of lubricant — about the size of a dime — for scopes inserted into patients during procedures, and even showed him how to squeeze the last drops out of the tube.
Earlier in the day, Dr. Carmelo Herrero testified that lubricant is used for patient safety during procedures. Too little can be problematic, he said, but so can too much.
Herrero, Desai’s former colleague, said he was not aware of any practices at the endoscopy clinic that put patients in harm’s way.
A trial for Desai and nurse anesthetist Ronald Lakeman began last week in District Judge Valerie Adair’s courtroom.
Desai, 63, who gave up his medical license after health officials disclosed the outbreak in 2008, and Lakeman, 65, face a series of charges, including second-degree murder, criminal neglect of patients, theft and insurance fraud.
Another nurse charged in the case, Keith Mathahs, 76, pleaded guilty and testified against the other two defendants.
The murder charge stems from the death of Rodolfo Meana, 77, a victim of the hepatitis outbreak. The outbreak was blamed on nurse anesthetists reusing vials of the sedative propofol between patients after the vials had become contaminated by patients with hepatitis C.
During his opening statement last week, Chief Deputy District Attorney Mike Staudaher said Desai ran his endoscopy clinic like an “assembly line,” pinching pennies and risking the health of his patients.
But defense attorney Richard Wright said testimony will show that the physicians and nurses who worked at the clinic did not believe they were engaging in practices that endangered patients.
Sukhdeo testified that the clinic’s waiting room was often so crowded that patients could not find places to sit. After officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention visited, “I know our patient count went down, considerably,” the witness said.
The trial is scheduled to resume this morning.
Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-384-8710.