Monday, October 2, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Dallas Hospital Apologizes|for Ebola Errors

DALLAS (CN) - The chief clinical officer of Texas Health Resources will apologize to a U.S. House committee for its Dallas hospital's mishandling of the first domestic case of Ebola, which resulted in two nurses contracting the deadly disease.

Dr. Daniel Varga will give remote testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on Thursday.

A written copy of his testimony was posted on the House website Wednesday evening.

"Unfortunately, in our initial treatment of Mr. [Thomas Eric] Duncan, despite our best intentions and a highly skilled medical team, we made mistakes. We did not correctly diagnose his symptoms as those of Ebola," Vargas said. "We are deeply sorry." Duncan, of Liberia, died Oct. 8 in quarantine at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.

The hospital emergency room had sent him home with only antibiotics on Sept. 26. He was hospitalized two days later when he developed symptoms of Ebola.

Nurse Nina Pham, 26, was confirmed to have Ebola on Sunday - she is under quarantine at Presbyterian, along with an unidentified person she had contact with while symptomatic.

A second nurse, Amber Joy Vinson, 29, tested positive for Ebola Wednesday . She was quickly placed into isolation at Presbyterian and flown to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

Presbyterian is "committed to using our experience" as the first hospital in the country to diagnose and treat an Ebola patient to help other hospitals, Varga said.

"In our effort to communicate to the public quickly and transparently, we inadvertently provided some information that was inaccurate and had to be corrected," he said. "No doubt that was unsettling to a community that was already concerned and confused, and we have learned from that experience as well."

Varga said the hospital has yet to determine how Pham contracted Ebola from Duncan.

"She is known as an extremely skilled nurse, and she was using full protective measures under the CDC protocols, so we don't yet know precisely how or when she was infected," he said.

"But it's clear there was an exposure somewhere, sometime. We are poring over records and observations, and doing all we can to find the answers."

Varga rebutted allegations that Duncan received below-standard care because he was black, poor and uninsured.

He said the medical staff "worked diligently to provide compassionate, intensive care" to Duncan.

"He was treated with the most appropriate and available medical interventions, including the investigative antiviral drug Brincidofovir," Varga said. "Mr. Duncan was the first Ebola patient to receive this drug."

Varga said the hospital "fell short," not in treating Ebola, but in detecting and diagnosing it.

"As a result, following Mr. Duncan's initial admission, we have changed our screening process in the ED to capture the patient's travel history at the first point of contact with ED staff," he said. "This process change makes the travel history available to all caregivers from the beginning of the patient's visit in the ED. Additionally, we have modified our Electronic Health Record in multiple ways to increase the visibility and documentation of information related to travel history and infectious exposures."

Varga acknowledged "a need for more proactive, intensive and focused training" for medical staff. The hospital has conducted face-to-face training with staff for several days, which includes screening of suspected patients, documenting answers to travel questions in the records systems and proper donning and doffing of personal protective equipment.

Based in Arlington, Texas, non-profit Texas Health Resources operates a network of 25 hospitals and healthcare facilities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Follow @davejourno
Categories / Uncategorized

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.