The first person infected with Ebola in the United States, nurse Nina Pham, sued a Texas hospital on Monday, saying it did not do enough to prevent her from contracting the deadly virus and invaded her privacy after she was diagnosed with it.
In the suit against Texas Health Resources (THR) in Dallas County Court, Pham claims the hospital did not initially provide nurses with proper protective equipment or properly train staff on how to treat the disease.
The suit accuses the hospital of negligence and deception. It does not specify an amount in damages.
Pham, 26, was one of two nurses at the Dallas hospital who contracted the disease when treating Thomas Duncan, who was admitted in late September and died less than two weeks later. Both nurses recovered. Duncan contracted the disease in Liberia.
Pham became a national symbol of hope in fighting Ebola after she made a recovery and was greeted in the Oval Office by President Barack Obama.
The suit claims that the THR’s Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital did not initially provide adequate protective gear for medical staff or instructions on how to treat someone with Ebola. It also describes a hospital in chaos, where medical waste that could have carried the virus was left to pile up.
“The nurses were just using their best guesses and their instincts to protect themselves,” the suit said.
The hospital did not address the details of Pham’s accusations and said in a statement: “As distressing as the lawsuit is to us, we remain optimistic that we can resolve this matter with Nina.”
Pham claims the hospital used her as a “public relations pawn” to improve its plummeting image. While it issued news releases saying her condition had improved to “good,” it was having end of life conversations with her, Pham alleges.
Pham said the hospital did not respect her right to privacy. In one instance, she was videotaped speaking to a doctor and the video was released to the media. Pham said both the taping and release happened without her permission.
“I was hoping that THR would be more open and honest about everything that happened at the hospital, and the things they didn’t do that led to me getting infected with Ebola. But that didn’t happen and I felt I was left with no choice but to turn to the courts for help,” Pham said in a statement.
(Reporting by Marice Richter; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Bill Trott, Eric Beech and Christian Plumb)