DALLAS (CN) - A Dallas nurse who contracted Ebola from a patient cannot sue her employer for negligence and breach of privacy because her claims belong in workers' compensation proceedings, hospital officials claim in court.
Texas Health Resources, the parent of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, responded to nurse Nina Pham's lawsuit on April 3, asking for dismissal with prejudice or referral to the Texas Department of Insurance's Division of Workers' Compensation.
Pham sued the hospital on March 2 in Dallas County Court. She tested positive for Ebola on Oct. 11, 2014, after caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, of Liberia, who died of Ebola three days earlier at Presbyterian.
Texas Health Resources faced harsh public criticism for botching Duncan's initial diagnosis and sending him away from the emergency room with only antibiotics before admitting him during a second visit.
The case set off a monthlong public health crisis in North Texas that involved monitoring more than 100 possible contacts, sterilization of several locations and school closures.
Pham claimed the hospital failed to train staff about Ebola and failed to provide proper protective equipment.
She also claimed her privacy was violated during her isolation and treatment as a patient, and that the hospital ignored her request to release no information about her when. She said a viral video of her in her hospital bed recorded by a doctor was released without her permission.
Texas Health Resources denied Phams' claims of negligence, premises liability, misrepresentation and breach of privacy claims, in its 5-page answer.
It says the court has no jurisdiction in the matter, that Pham's "exclusive remedies" are under state workers' compensation laws, because the Ebola exposure happened "in the course and scope of employment."
"There is no question defendant is a subscriber to workers compensation coverage," the answer states. "To that extent, whether or not plaintiff is an employee of defendant for purposes of the Texas Workers' Compensation Act and subject to the exclusive remedies of the Act is determined by the Division."
Pham's attorney, Charla Aldous in Dallas, said she was "disappointed but not surprised" by the hospital's answer.
"My hope was that they would come clean and be honest about what happened so that the healthcare community can learn from the mistakes made," Aldous told the Dallas Morning News.
"Instead, they try to skirt the issue by claiming legal defenses that do not apply. This response by THR just confirms that a lawsuit is necessary to bring light to the facts of what really happened that allowed two nurses at Presbyterian Dallas to contract this deadly disease."
Texas Health Resources spokesman Wendell Watson said that the company will continue to show Pham "the utmost courtesy, dignity and respect as a member of the Texas Health family."
He said the facts will show that the company and Presbyterian "acted responsibly" to protect employees.
"System and hospital administration actively sought and utilized the most up-to-date guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and also coordinated with leading experts at Emory University Hospital to determine and provide the best possible care for Ebola patients," Watson said in a statement. "We respected Ms. Pham's privacy and acted only with her consent."
Pham said in March that she hoped Texas Health Resources "would be more open and honest" about what happened at Presbyterian. "But that didn't happen and I felt I was left with no choice but to turn to the courts for help," she said in a statement.
"The fact is, I'm facing a number of issues with regard to my health and my career and the lawsuit provides a way to address them."
Pham said that since her recovery she has suffered anxiety about the long-term effects of Ebola and the experimental drugs she was given. Her hair has been falling out.
"I don't know if having children could be affected by this, but that's something I worry about," Pham told the Morning News. "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?"Follow @davejourno
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