Nurse Nina Pham, the first person infected with Ebola in the US, reportedly plans to sue her employer over the way they handled the medical crisis at their facility.
Pham, 26, was one of the nurses who provided care for Thomas Duncan, who was the first known person to die of Ebola in the US. She says that Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital and its parent company, Texas Health Resources, failed her and her colleagues who cared for Duncan.
Jennifer Emily of The Dallas Morning News interviewed Pham and broke the story on February 28:
Pham says she will file a lawsuit Monday in Dallas County against Texas Health Resources alleging that while she became the American face of the fight against the disease, the hospital’s lack of training and proper equipment and violations of her privacy made her “a symbol of corporate neglect — a casualty of a hospital system’s failure to prepare for a known and impending medical crisis.”
She says that Texas Health Resources was negligent because it failed to develop policies and train its staff for treating Ebola patients. She says Texas Health Resources did not have proper protective gear for those who treated Duncan.
After Duncan died, Pham said she met with someone from the CDC and the hospital’s employee health manager to discuss her care of Duncan and how she protected herself.
She said they deemed her no risk.
But a few days after Duncan died, Pham was diagnosed with Ebola. She was initially treated at Presbyterian and then at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland with a series of experimental drugs and plasma from Dr. Kent Brantly, an Ebola survivor.
It really isn’t a surprise that Pham (and Amber Vinson, another nurse who cared for Duncan) contracted the deadly disease, considering what conditions were like at the hospital:
The day Duncan moved to ICU, Pham said, she and the charge nurse went in with double gloves taped to double gowns and wore double booties and a face shield. The hospital did not have hazmat-type suits, and Pham said her neck was always exposed.
“We’ve had nurses that I’ve worked with that worked in other states, and they worked in hazmat suits for flu and H1N1,” Pham said. “Why aren’t we wearing hazmat suits for Ebola?”
After days of asking, Pham said, the nurses were given hazmat suits. She said all the decisions to upgrade the protective gear and precautions were made by the nurses “on the fly.”
Meanwhile, the nurses devised their own hazardous waste area. In a room adjacent to Duncan’s, the nurses set up a place to take off their protective gear and shower after caring for him. In another nearby room, they placed bags of dirty linens, towels and other soiled items.
The nurses and respiratory therapists poured bleach into every bag, zip-tied them and placed them in cardboard containers. Pham estimated that the waste filled half a patient room.
No one would collect the waste or clean up, Pham said. At one point, the toilet the staff used stopped working and no one came to fix it.
“We were mopping floors with bleach and doing janitorial work and dealing with hazardous, lethal waste,” Pham said. “It was very physically and emotionally draining.”
Written by Lily Dane of The Daily Sheeple.
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