Texas hospital disputes some claims made in nurse's Ebola lawsuit

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 04, 2015 12:53 PM

By Lisa Maria Garza

DALLAS (Reuters) - A Texas hospital group on Wednesday said it disputes some claims made by nurse Nina Pham, the first person infected with Ebola in the United States who this week sued it for failing to prevent her from contracting the virus and then invading her privacy.

Texas Health Resources Chief Executive Barclay Berdan said the hospital complied with government privacy regulations to determine what information to share publicly about Pham's condition and Pham consented to its release, a hospital group spokesman said.

He first made the comments in an email sent to staff shortly after the suit was filed on Monday, its spokesman, Wendell Watson, said.

The email did not address Pham's claims that the hospital initially failed to provide nurses with proper protective equipment or properly train staff on how to treat the disease.

Pham, 26, was one of two nurses at the Dallas hospital who contracted Ebola when treating Thomas Duncan, who contracted the disease in Liberia and was admitted to the Dallas hospital in late September. Duncan died less than two weeks after admission but both nurses recovered.

In the lawsuit, Pham alleges the hospital used her as a "public relations pawn" to improve its plummeting image and did not respect her right to privacy.

Pham said she was videotaped speaking to a doctor and the video was released to the media, both without her permission. Her lawsuit did not specify an amount in damages that she is seeking.

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.

She is still an employee of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital and remains on the payroll, Watson said.

The lawsuit also questioned the testimony of the hospital group's chief clinical officer, Daniel Varga, who spoke at a U.S. Congress committee hearing in October and said it followed state guidelines and the Center for Disease Control protocols for Duncan's medical care.

"Dr. Daniel Varga's testimony before Congress was factual and accurate and any implication to the contrary is both false and irresponsible," Berdan told employees in the email.

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Bill Trott)