Yet another nurse who had contact with now deceased Ebola victim Thomas Duncan has been diagnosed with the disease. That makes two nurses in the last four days who’ve come down with symptoms of the disease. This nurse’s name is Amber Vinson.
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where Duncan was treated initially and where both nurses are employed has come under increased scrutiny in the last week with many stating that the hospital simply wasn’t prepared for anyone who had contracted Ebola and that the hospital didn’t make the required changes necessary to prevent infection even after they knew they had an Ebola patient.
But it gets better. CBS News is reporting that even after Vinson called the Center for Disease Control to tell them she had a fever, the CDC cleared her to fly to Ohio and back anyway.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that Vinson called the agency several times before flying, saying that she had a fever with a temperature of 99.5 degrees. But because her fever wasn’t 100.4 degrees or higher, she didn’t officially fall into the group of “high risk” and was allowed to fly.
Officials in the U.S. have been trying to calm fears over the Ebola crisis, but time and again events have overtaken their assurances.
While this seems like such an obviously bad idea and I’m tempted to try and make a joke about it, the truth is that that’s an obviously bad idea and the CDC did it anyway. There’s no way to predict when a 99.5 fever is going to turn into a 100.4 fever. There is no way to know that. That Vinson was cleared anyway speaks to either a frightening overconfidence or an even more frightening incompetence. She has now exposed herself and her fever to over 100 people in one way or another. Certainly this doesn’t mean they’ll become sick but it doesn’t mean they won’t either.
And on top of the CDC situation, another nurse from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, the nexus of Ebola in the U.S. has come out with a scathing appraisal of how the hospital handled the situation. It is truly frightening.
From the Associated Press:
Duncan’s medical records make numerous mentions of protective gear worn by hospital staff, and Pham (Nina Pham, the first nurse to catch Ebola from Duncan) herself notes wearing the gear in visits to Duncan’s room. But there is no indication in the records of her first encounter with Duncan, on Sept. 29, that Pham donned any protective gear.
Deborah Burger of National Nurses United, who convened a conference call with reporters to relay what she said were concerns of nurses at the hospital, said they were forced to use medical tape to secure openings in their flimsy garments and worried that their necks and heads were exposed as they cared for Duncan.
The nurses allege that his lab samples were allowed to travel through the hospital’s pneumatic tubes, possibly risking contaminating of the specimen-delivery system. They also said that hazardous waste was allowed to pile up to the ceiling.
The nurses’ statement said they had to “interact with Mr. Duncan with whatever protective equipment was available,” even as he produced “a lot of contagious fluids.” Duncan’s medical records underscore that concern. They also say nurses treating Duncan were also caring for other patients in the hospital and that, in the face of constantly shifting guidelines, they were allowed to follow whichever ones they chose.
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.
Unimaginable screw ups but what’s also damning is that the Associated Press has been unable to get anyone else to speak about it.
The AP has attempted since last week to contact dozens of individuals involved in Duncan’s care. Those who responded to reporters’ inquiries have so far been unwilling to speak.
These are people who were involved in the care of the now deceased Mr. Duncan and they are unwilling to speak out about the very conditions under which they worked. That is, in my estimation, a damning indicator that the hospital has told them not to speak to the press.
What’s more important here, saving your hospital’s reputation by cooperating fully and being open about what protocols weren’t followed or pretending that nothing bad happened and shushing the nurses the hospital’s administration has endangered, two of which now have Ebola?
Here’s what proper Ebola protocols look like.