Heroes Stricken in the Line of Duty at Dallas Hospital

October 19, 2014

Two nurses exposed to the Ebola virus in Dallas should not be scolded, as the CDC has done, but praised for their dedicated service to the public.

As a health lawyer working in Dallas, I have some new heroes. Chief among them, Dallas Presbyterian nurses, Nina Pham (pictured below) and Amber Vinson. Lying in a hospital bed in northeast Dallas fighting the deadly Ebola virus, Pham is worried that she's let us down. No ma'am, we let you down. Nina Pham, Amber Vinson, and the remaining health workers at Presbyterian Hospital were completely unprepared by the CDC to handle a patient infected with Ebola.  

Nevertheless, Pham and Vinson bravely did their duty.  As Lincoln said at Gettysburg, it seems to me the "last full measure of devotion" these dedicated nurses can give, is to put their lives at risk for the good of a patient. Pham and Vinson deserve the highest praise for their selfless dedication to patient care.

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas is one of the finest hospitals in the nation. If there is a better hospital in Texas, I don't know about it. If there are better healthcare professionals in the world, I don't know where to find them. But they were not prepared for an Ebola patient.

That didn't stop nurses and doctors from doing their jobs the best way they knew how.

According to an unconfirmed statement released by National Nurses United (NNU), the largest U.S. nurses' union.

There were no protocols in place for dealing with the crisis. Once Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., was admitted to the hospital, he was "left in an open area of a Dallas emergency room for hours, and the nurses treating him worked for days without proper protective gear and faced constantly changing protocols."  According to NNU, the nurses' statement said they had to "interact with  Duncan with whatever protective equipment was available," even as he produced "a lot of contagious fluids." Duncan's medical records, which his family shared with The Associated Press, underscore some of those concerns. It appears that nurses were forced to use surgical tape to attempt to seal seams of protective clothing, unaware the greatest risk appears to be the removal of such protective wear.  Many days passed before Tyvek suits, triple gloves, triple boots, and respirator caps became available.

After Pham fell ill, followed by Vinson, reports reveal the hospital is now in freefall. Patients are cancelling doctor's appointments. Parking lots are empty. The CDC are in no better position. Statements issued by the CDC first blamed Pham for getting sick, then blamed Vinson for violating CDC policy in boarding an airplane while symptomatic. I'll say it, "Please stop it. They didn't fail us, you did." It should be clear by now that these women would have done anything to protect the public, if they had only been given proper guidance from the CDC.

Time will tell how bad this situation will become. But to Pham and Vinson and the other dedicated healthcare professionals at Presbyterian, we in Dallas would like to simply say, "Thank you."