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Nurse Sues Over Ebola Negligence


Although Ebola has largely disappeared from the headlines, the damage it wreaked upon those it came into contact with has not. Nina Pham, the nurse who cared for the Liberian native Eric Duncan before his death from Ebola, is still struggling with the physical and emotional effects of having contracted Ebola from Duncan in October of 2014. Pham has not returned to work at Texas Presbyterian Hospital yet and does not know if she will ever be able to nurse there or anywhere again. Aside from how her reputation as the "person with Ebola" would affect her ability to care for people in a hospital setting, Pham still suffers from body aches, hair loss, nightmares, and problems with liver enzymes. These symptoms are part of an overall constellation of physical issues seen in people recovering from Ebola that is called "post-Ebola syndrome."

Not quite four months after being released from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, where Pham was transferred for treatment during her illness with Ebola, Pham filed a lawsuit against the parent company of Texas Presbyterian Hospital, Texas Health Resources, THR. In her complaint, Pham alleges gross negligence, deception, and violation of her right to privacy. Pham is seeking damages for pain, impairment, mental anguish, and medical expenses.


At the heart of Pham's negligence claim is her assertion that the only instructions she was given on how to care for Duncan, who was highly contagious with Ebola, came from what a supervisor googled on the Internet and printed out. She was not given any personal protective equipment, using only surgical scrubs which left her head and neck uncovered. Pham received no training on how to "don and doff" her clothing, which is a known source of contamination for health care workers in contact with Ebola. She also had no proper way to dispose of Mr. Duncan's soiled linens and clothing--another source of contamination. Put simply, there were absolutely no safety protocols in place and no training or protective equipment given to Pham before or during her treatment of Mr. Duncan--a task she says she did not volunteer for despite the hospital's previous statements to the contrary.


Pham not only alleges a violation of her right to privacy, but deception; this is because she must show that she was misled about the consent she gave to the release of her information. Pham maintains that as soon as she learned that she had tested positive for the dreaded virus, she asked for privacy. As for the famous video of her in the isolation unit at Texas Presbyterian Hospital, she states in her complaint that she was not told about the GoPro camera under the hood of a co-worker and did not give permission for its release to the public. Pham also contends that her medical record was "grossly and inappropriately accessed by dozens of people throughout the system" of Texas Presbyterian in violation of HIPPA. Pham asserts that she was used as a PR pawn to help the hospital repair its image, which was damaged after its mishandling of Eric Duncan.


In addition to damages, Pham is seeking to hold Texas Presbyterian and its parent company THR accountable for their actions. In a recent interview, Pham said she hopes that her lawsuit will force hospitals to be better prepared for the next public health emergency.


If you have been injured due to negligence in the workplace, or if you believe that your right to privacy has been violated, contact The Thomas Law Firm for a free evaluation of your claims.

Categories: Negligence, News
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