Ebola Nurse Nina Pham Says Texas Health Failed Her, Then Used Her for PR: Lawsuit

Nina Pham, the Texas Health Presbyterian nurse who became the first person to contract Ebola in the United States, is suing the hospital. Pham was among the first healthcare workers assigned to treat Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian national who was exposed to Ebola in West Africa before being diagnosed after travelling to the United States.

Pham's lawsuit echoes the explosive charges she leveled against the hospital Sunday in an interview with The Dallas Morning News. Texas Health Resources, the parent company of Texas Health Presbyterian, relied on Google to train Pham and others who treated Duncan, she says, and left nurses on the treatment team to fend for themselves.

Pham says she was essentially assigned to Duncan and that she did not, as THR claimed, volunteer to care for him. Having no previous experience dealing with a highly infectious disease like Ebola, Pham asked a supervisor for guidance in how to protect herself from contamination. The supervisor, according to Pham, printed information from Google and gave it to her. As she began to treat Duncan, she left her hair and neck uncovered.

Eventually, Pham and other nurses treating Duncan would develop their own protection protocol, even improvising a protected respirator. Pham claims she would've been better off treating Duncan in Liberia.

THR is also accused of manipulating Pham to win the public relations battle. The famous video of Pham smiling and laughing with her treatment team after being diagnosed with Ebola was mostly staged, she says. THR asked her to sign away the rights to her personal information, despite noting in her records that she was not capable of making her own medical decisions.

The nurse says she continues to suffer physical and mental pain, and that THR's failure to properly protect her from Ebola will hurt her future quality of life.

Pham is seeking unspecified damages for negligence, invasion of privacy and fraud.

Nina Pham Lawsuit

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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young