DALLAS (AP) – A 26-year-old nurse said in a newspaper interview that a hospital where she had worked in Dallas and its parent company failed her when she contracted Ebola while caring for the first person in the U.S. diagnosed with the deadly disease.
Nina Pham told The Dallas Morning News in the interview that she is preparing to file a lawsuit Monday in Dallas County against Texas Health Resources. She said she continues to suffer from body aches and insomnia after contracting the disease from a patient she cared for last fall at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.
Pham alleged 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 also told the newspaper that Texas Health Resources was negligent because it failed to develop policies and train its staff for treating Ebola patients. She also told the paper that the company did not have proper protective gear for those who treated Thomas Eric Duncan, who died after becoming the first person in the U.S. diagnosed with the disease stemming from an outbreak in West Africa. Duncan, who contracted the disease on a visit to his native Liberia, died last fall only days before Pham tested positive for the disease.
She told the newspaper she was frightened when Duncan tested positive for Ebola as panic and fear spread throughout the hospital.
“I was the last person besides Mr. Duncan to find out he was positive,” she told the Morning News. “You’d think the primary nurse would be the first to know.”
Her attorney, Charla Aldous, told the newspaper that Texas Health Resources “used Nina as a PR pawn.”
The Morning News said Wendell Watson, a spokesman for Texas Health Resources, declined to address specifics of Pham’s allegations.
“Nina Pham bravely served Texas Health Dallas during a most difficult time. We continue to support and wish the best for her, and we remain optimistic that constructive dialogue can resolve this matter,” Watson said.
Pham will ask in her lawsuit for unspecified damages for physical pain and mental anguish, medical expenses and loss of future earnings. But she said that she wants to “make hospitals and big corporations realize that nurses and health care workers, especially front line people, are important. And we don’t want nurses to start turning into patients.”
Pham and another nurse who worked at Texas Health Presbyterian, Amber Vinson, both became infected with Ebola after caring for Duncan, according to medical records released to The Associated Press. Both have recovered. Initially treated in Texas, Pham was released last October from a hospital attached to the National Institutes of Health near Washington, D.C.