Texas Health Resources responds to Ebola nurse's lawsuit

Though the Ebola crisis has long since ebbed in the United States, the brief outbreak of the deadly virus in Texas last fall continues to make headlines.

On Tuesday, nurse Nina Pham announced that she will sue Texas Health Resources after contracting Ebola from patient Thomas Eric Duncan, who later died from the virus. By Wednesday, the parent company of Pham's employer, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, had already responded to and disputed some of her claims, the Dallas Morning News reports.

The company specifically took issue with Pham's allegations that the congressional testimony of one of its doctors, Daniel Varga, M.D., regarding the training hospital employees received and the type of protective gear they wore during the outbreak, was less than truthful. Pham's allegation "is both false and irresponsible," Texas Health Resources CEO Barclay Berdan wrote in an email to employees, according to the Morning News.

Berdan also wrote that Pham gave consent to the company to share her medical condition, contrary to her allegations that her privacy had been violated, according to the newspaper. The suit, however, claims that Pham's condition rendered her unable to make such an important decision on her own, which the suit says Texas Health Resources acknowledged in its discussion of Pham's treatment plan with her family instead of the nurse herself.

But Texas Health Resources did not address Pham's allegations that she and her fellow clinicians were not provided with adequate protective equipment or given adequate guidelines for how to treat an Ebola patient, the Morning News notes. These claims--not the first to be raised by healthcare workers concerned about Ebola safety--drew the support of the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), Masslive.com reports.  

"The hospital industry needs to be held accountable for the protection and safety of its workers, as the workers protect the safety of the patients," David Schildmeier, director of public communications at the MNA, told the publication.

The National Nurses United union also had been vocal in its criticism of hospitals' Ebola prevention efforts, even calling on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to improve safety requirements to shield healthcare workers from outbreaks, FierceHealthcare has reported.

Pham also is not the first clinician to resort to legal action in response to a perceived violation of her rights regarding Ebola. Nurse Kaci Hickox filed suit and later settled a case against the state of Maine after being place in involuntary quarantine following her return from Sierra Leone even though she had no symptoms of the virus.

To learn more:
- read the Dallas Morning News article
- here's the Masslive.com report

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