One of the nurses who contracted Ebola while caring for an Ebola patient will file a lawsuit on Monday against the hospital’s parent company, NBC News confirmed Sunday.
“I wanted to believe that they would have my back and take care of me, but they just haven’t risen to the occasion,” 26-year-old Nina Pham told The Dallas Morning News in an exclusive interview. Instead, she will argue in her lawsuit, “corporate neglect” put her at risk and the hospital used her as a “PR pawn.”
Two nurses—Pham and Amber Vinson—both contracted Ebola from caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola on American soil; after several rounds of experimental treatments and weeks of care, they both survived.
But Pham’s lawsuit paints the picture of an extremely negligent and irresponsible hospital that did not initially have the protective gear or train its nurses to properly avoid contracting the disease. The nurses were forced to devise their own systems for protective gear and disposing of the toxic waste, she said, and the decisions were made "on the fly." They also had to do their own janitorial work, she said.
The information she and other nurses were given on Ebola was printed off the Internet, she said.
“The only thing I knew about Ebola, I learned in nursing school [six years earlier]” she added.
Pham alleges that the hospital used her as a PR pawn, releasing a video of her in the hospital without her consent and didn't adequately protect her privacy; amid ‘end-of-life decision’ discussions, she says PR people tried to get her to speak positively about the hospital for a press release.
Now, as she recovers, Pham said she’s still dealing with medical side-effects and anxiety issues.
“I don’t know if having children could be affected by this, but that’s something I worry about,” she said. “Just the uncertainty of it all. And if I do have a health problem in the future, is it related to Ebola or is it something else? How do we know that? ... That’s the scariest part — it’s the uncertainty.”
Pham is seeking damages for physical pain, mental anguish, medical expenses, and loss of future earnings, according to the report. She also said she wants to “make hospitals and big corporations realize that nurses and health care workers, especially frontline people, are important. And we don’t want nurses to start turning into patients.”
Texas Health told NBC News via a spokesperson that "Nina Pham bravely served Texas Health Dallas during a most difficult time. We continue to support and wish the best for her, and we remain optimistic that constructive dialogue can resolve this matter."