The Dallas nurse who survived Ebola after catching it from her patient last fall may have smiled for the cameras during the harrowing ordeal, but now she's saying the hospital put its reputation above her needs.
Nina Pham, a 26-year-old nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, caught Ebola from her patient, Liberian native Thomas Eric Duncan, who later died from the disease. Although Pham became the face of the hospital's public relations campaign after the hospital turned into "a ghost town," she sued its parent company, Texas Health Resources, today in Dallas. She did not specify the damages she’s seeking.
Here are four of the most surprising allegations made in Pham’s legal petition against the hospital network:
|The hospital lied when it upgraded Pham's condition to "good," according to the suit.|
On October 14, Texas Health Resources announced that Pham was "in good condition." Meanwhile, health workers at the hospital were holding end-of-life discussions with Pham while at the same time they noted that she was so impaired that she couldn't make these decisions on her own, according to the legal document.
Pham's mother heard the positive condition report on the news and called the hospital only to find out that Pham was not in good condition, the lawsuit says.
|Pham didn't know about the isolation room video.|
The hospital released a video of Pham in its care before she was transported to the Special Clinical Studies Unit of the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda for further treatment, but Pham didn't give permission for the video to be shot or distributed, according to the lawsuit.
"Come to Maryland, everybody," Pham says in the video. She soon begins to wipe away tears and says, “I love you guys.”
The video was shot on a GoPro camera tucked under a physician's hood, according to the document. The physician didn't get the soundbites the hospital was looking for, but the video was edited and released to the media for a "rah rah" response, according to the suit.
"Never once did THR get Nina’s permission to be used as a PR pawn like this. Never once did THR discuss its purposes or motivations or tell Nina what it was going to do with the information it sought from her," the suit reads.
|When she got sick, Pham didn't want the public to know her name.|
On her way to her hospital's emergency room with possible Ebola symptoms, Pham called the hospital and asked for her privacy, according to the suit. She didn't want anyone to know she might have Ebola.
"Shortly before midnight, the chief nursing officer for Presbyterian came into Nina’s room wearing a full hazmat suit. Nina could tell from his red eyes that it was bad news," the suit reads. "That’s when she was told she had tested positive for Ebola."
Then, despite her life-threatening illness and medications, the public relations department of the hospital's parent company called Pham repeatedly, according to the lawsuit.
In a statement to employees, the hospital said tonight that it "was sensitive to Nina’s privacy, and we adhered to HIPAA rules in determining what information to share publicly. We had Nina’s consent to share the information about her that was released."
|She received only "Googled" Ebola information from her bosses before meeting Duncan.|
Duncan, the first patient to be diagnosed with Ebola on U.S. soil, had been at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas for a day and a half when Pham's boss told her that he would become her patient in the intensive care unit.
"The sum total of the information Nina was provided to protect herself before taking on her patient was what her manager 'Googled' and printed out from the Internet," the suit alleges.
The nurses made up their own personal protective gear protocols because they had no other instructions. And they disposed of hazardous wastes by tying the material in knotted sheets and putting it in a room nearby because proper hazmat teams were not called in.
"Nina Pham would have been better off treating Mr. Duncan in a Liberian Ebola center than in THR’s signature hospital," the lawsuit states.
Texas Health Resources spokesperson Wendell Watson released the following statement today: "Nina Pham served very bravely during a most difficult time as we all struggled to deal with the first case of Ebola to arrive in a U.S. hospital's emergency room. Texas Health Resources has a strong culture of caring and compassion, and we view all our employees as part of our family. That's why we have continued to support Nina both during and after her illness, and it's why she is still a member of our team. As distressing as the lawsuit is to us, we remain optimistic that we can resolve this matter with Nina."