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Ebola Nurse No. 2

A second Dallas nurse has contracted Ebola.  She was on the team that treated Thomas Duncan, the Liberian man who died of Ebola in Dallas last week.

Nurses at Dallas’s Texas Presbyterian Hospital are angry at the way the hospital treated them, and is, in their view, offloading responsibility for their own infections onto them for supposedly not following procedure. The Texas nurses (non-unionized) have released an anonymous complaint via a nurses’ union in California. From the story about it:

The Dallas nurses asked National Nurses United to read their statement so they could air complaints anonymously and without fear of losing their jobs, National Nurses United executive director RoseAnn DeMoro said from Oakland, Calif. DeMoro refused to say how many nurses signed off on the letter or how many were on the media call, but she said all of them worked at Presbyterian and had been involved in Duncan’s care or had direct knowledge of what had occurred after he arrived by ambulance.

They were spurred to speak out after their colleague, registered nurse Nina Pham, 26, contracted Ebola while treating Duncan, according to DeMoro. She said the nurses were angered over what they perceived to be health officials’ suggestions that Pham made a mistake that led to her exposure to the virus, which has killed more than 4,400 people in West Africa since March.

The statement alleged that when Duncan was brought to Presbyterian by ambulance Sept. 28 with Ebola-like symptoms, he was “left for several hours, not in isolation, in an area” where up to seven other patients were. “Subsequently, a nurse supervisor arrived and demanded that he be moved to an isolation unit, yet faced stiff resistance from other hospital authorities,” they alleged.

Duncan’s lab samples were sent through the usual hospital tube system “without being specifically sealed and hand delivered. The result is that the entire tube system … was potentially contaminated,” they said.

The statement described a hospital with no clear rules on how to handle Ebola patients, despite months of alerts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta about the possibility of Ebola coming to the United States.

“There was no advanced preparedness on what to do with the patient. There was no protocol. There was no system. The nurses were asked to call the infectious disease department” if they had questions, but that department didn’t have answers either, the statement said. So nurses were essentially left to figure things out on their own as they dealt with “copious amounts” of highly contagious bodily fluids from the dying Duncan while wearing gloves with no wrist tapes, flimsy gowns that did not cover their necks, and no surgical booties, it alleged.

I picked up from the Baton Rouge airport yesterday a friend’s mom who flew in from Dallas. She talked about Ebola, and how frightened she was. “I don’t trust the authorities,” she said. “They have lied to us in the past, and they will lie to us again.”

An understandable reaction, don’t you think? A potentially dangerous one, but a perfectly understandable one. If the public and private institutions handling this crisis lose their credibility, we are in very serious trouble.

UPDATE: Amber Vinson, the second nurse, was on a flight from Cleveland to Dallas the day before she started showing symptoms.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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