Texas nurse, Nina Pham, claims that gross negligence on the part of Texas Health Resources (THR), parent company of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, caused her to become the first person on U.S. soil to contract the Ebola virus. She also claims that she was exploited and lied to by the hospital system, which she says was more concerned with their public image than properly caring for its workers and patients.
Nina Pham, 26, worked as an ICU nurse for Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital and was the first nurse to treat suspected Ebola patient, Thomas Eric Duncan. She cared for Mr. Duncan following his official diagnosis and throughout the course of his treatment before he succumbed to the disease eight days later. Though her employer told her she was under no risk of contracting Ebola, she tested positive three days later.
In the summer of 2014, the Ebola crisis in West Africa was becoming headline news across the globe. On August 8, 2014, the World Health Organization declared Ebola a public health emergency of international concern – a designation that imposes legal measures on disease prevention, surveillance, control, and response. By early September, the CDC warned THR that Ebola was an imminent threat, and that procedures needed to be implemented to prevent an outbreak in the U.S. THR directed its hospitals in Ebola preparedness, but failed to ensure that any policies, procedures, or equipment were actually put in place. As a result, when Ebola did reach one of its hospitals, health care workers were placed at high risk of exposure because they were not properly informed of the dangers; were not trained on how to handle the disease; and were not provided with the proper protective equipment.
Ms. Pham asked her supervisor what safety precautions she should take and was given no more than a printout of information he had obtained through an Internet search. Ms. Pham and her co-workers were essentially left to their own devices to find ways to protect themselves. Three days after Mr. Duncan succumbed to his illness, Ms. Pham, who had been self-monitoring her temperature, discovered she had a fever and asked to be admitted to the hospital under an anonymous identity.
In the days following, Ms. Pham asserts she was lied to and used as a public relations pawn for Texas Health Resources. The hospital did not keep her medical condition private, rather, they released both true and false information about her condition to the public. They also videotaped her in her hospital bed without her informed consent and used the tape as part of a PR campaign.
After being transferred to the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, Ms. Pham was treated for her illness and was discharged after being declared Ebola-free. Throughout her ordeal, Ms. Pham has tried to keep a positive outlook despite being witness to Mr. Duncan’s painful and gruesome death and facing the very real possibility that she may suffer the same fate. The experience has left her emotionally scarred and unsure if she will ever again be able to work as a critical care nurse.
In her lawsuit, Ms. Pham claims she has suffered severe physical, emotional, and reputational injury. In addition to the horrific experience she faced, she now faces isolation caused by the stigma of having had Ebola, making some people keep their distance from her out of fear. She is also unsure of the long-term effects she may experience because of the virus and the multitude of experimental drugs she was treated with.
Ms. Pham is claiming unspecified damages for her previous and future losses incurred because of negligence, invasion of privacy, and fraud on the part of Texas Health Resources. She is also seeking punitive damages designed to deter Texas Presbyterian and other hospitals from future conduct that puts their workers at risk of harm.
Philadelphia personal injury lawyers of Galfand Berger LLP successfully represents clients harmed by negligence. To learn how we can help you with your personal injury, Workers’ Compensation, or premises liability case, call 1-800-222-8792 today to schedule your free consultation or contact us online. We have offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem and Reading, PA allowing us to serve clients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey including those in Allentown and Harrisburg.