One of the nurses who was present during the treatment of “patient zero” at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas has come forward with allegations of serious administrative failures that put workers at risk. Briana Aguirre, who has worked at the hospital for three years, says she and other staff members were not given proper instructions about how to handle Ebola, and were also given faulty equipment that didn’t adequately cover their skin.
The protective suits provided by Texas Health Presbyterian did not cover nurses’ necks, for instance, and when they brought this up with their superiors, they were told to simply patch the holes with tape. Nurse Nina Pham, who is currently being treated for Ebola, was one of the workers who was told to take medical tape and apply it to the space between her gown and head covering.
Hospital VP ignored requests for safer equipment
According to Aguirre, requests made to the vice president of Texas Health Presbyterian for better protective gear went unanswered, as did petitions for more information about how to deal with Ebola patients. The only thing offered at the hospital was an optional Ebola seminar that Aguirre says failed to provide any hands-on training for dealing with Ebola.
“I’ll just be honest, I threw a fit,” described Aguirre to TODAY about the protective suits, which zipped up to the collarbone but left a large gap beneath the hood. “I just couldn’t believe it. In the second week of an Ebola crisis at my hospital, the only gear they were offering us… is gear that is allowing our necks to be uncovered.”
When Aguirre tried to ask for better equipment, she was promised a phone call from her superior that never actually came. Aguirre had hoped to address not only the equipment failures but the fact that some of the workers who came into contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, the first Ebola victim in the U.S., did not wear any protective clothing at all.
“The same nurse caring for [Duncan] was caring for three other patients,” lamented Aguirre, as quoted by the Daily Mail. “She was not wearing anything close to what we’re wearing now.”
Concerned about losing her job over raising these concerns, Aguirre told TODAY‘s Matt Lauer that her conscience led her to do the right thing, regardless. Though she describes her employment at Texas Health Presbyterian as the “best she ever had,” she is concerned that the irregularities at her hospital may have put her coworkers in danger.
“I watched them violate basic principles of nursing,” she added. “I would try anything and everything to refuse to go there to be treated. I would feel at risk by going there. If I don’t actually have Ebola, I may contract it there.”
Hospital execs, CDC’s Frieden face Congress over bungled Ebola response
According to reports, Dr. Daniel Varga, chief of Texas Health Presbyterian, recently attended a hearing before Congress over his hospital’s response to the Ebola case. Also attending this important meeting was U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Tom Frieden, whose own misinformation has put hundreds of people at risk of the deadly viral disease.
During the hearing, Representative Tim Murphy, the designated chair, asked Frieden why his agency allowed nurse Joy Vinson, who contracted Ebola from Duncan, to board a commercial airline. He also questioned why more hasn’t been done to stop potentially infected travelers from reaching the U.S. in the first place.
“The trust and credibility of the administration and government are waning,” stated Murphy.
Aguirre’s full interview with TODAY is available here:
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