Originally published November 10 2014
Dallas hospital nurses threatened with being fired if they talked to the press about the horrifying lapses in Ebola containment
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) A nurse's union is claiming that healthcare workers who cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian national who became the first Ebola patient on U.S. soil, were told by hospital administrators to keep quiet about treatment conditions at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital or they would be fired.
As reported by The Associated Press (AP), Deborah Burger of National Nurses United, a union that does not represent nurses at Texas Presbyterian, convened a conference call to reporters recently to discuss what she said were concerns of nurses at the hospital. Among other things, Burger said the nurses had to use medical tape to secure gaps in flimsy protective clothing, and that they were concerned about exposure of their necks and heads as they cared for Duncan, who died October 8.
The AP further reported:
RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of Nurses United, said the statement came from "several" and "a few" nurses, but she refused repeated inquiries to state how many. She said the organization had vetted the claims, and that the nurses cited were in a position to know what had occurred at the hospital. She did not specify whether they were among the nurses caring for Duncan.
Also, nurses said that Duncan's lab samples were sent through the hospital's pneumatic tube network, which may have resulted in contamination of the specimen delivery system. And they said hazardous waste -- sheets, protective outerwear, towels, etc. -- were allowed to pile up to the ceiling in Duncan's room.
Forced to 'interact' with very little protective gear
A spokesman for the hospital, Wendall Watson, would not respond to the nurses' specific allegations, but he did say that the hospital had not heard anything like them.
"Patient and employee safety is our greatest priority, and we take compliance very seriously," he said in a statement to the AP, adding that the institution would "review and respond to any concerns raised by our nurses and all employees."
In their statement, the nurses claimed that they were forced to "interact with Mr. Duncan with whatever protective equipment was available," even as he began producing "a lot of contagious fluids."
The Associated Press noted as well that Duncan's medical records bore out those concerns. And they also indicate that nurses who were treating him also treated other patients in the hospital at the same time, and that guidelines were erratic and ever-shifting, leaving them to follow whichever ones they wanted to at the time. The AP continued:
When Ebola was suspected but unconfirmed, a doctor wrote that use of disposable shoe covers should also be considered. At that point, by all protocols, shoe covers should have been mandatory to prevent anyone from tracking contagious body fluids around the hospital.
Duncan's first trip to hospital E.R. missed by staff
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chief Dr. Thomas Frieden has blamed nurses for ignoring established protocols, but few hospitals around the country are equipped to handle incurable Biosafety Level 4 diseases, which includes Ebola.
When he first presented to the hospital's E.R., Duncan was left in an open area for hours, reports said, where nurses worked with him without proper protective clothing and gear.
Two of those nurses have since become ill: 26-year-old Nina Pham and 29-year-old Amber Joy Vinson.
Duncan first sought care at Texas Presbyterian in the E.R. late September 25, but he was treated and released the next morning. But on September 28, he was rushed back to the E.R. by ambulance, where -- unlike his first visit -- his mention of recent travel from Ebola-stricken Liberia immediately caused suspicion, according to an AP review of hospital records that the news agency was provided by Duncan's family.
"The CDC said 76 staff members at the hospital could have been exposed to Duncan after his second ER visit," the AP reported. "Another 48 people who may have had contact with him before he was isolated are being monitored."
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