DALLAS (CN) - The Texas hospital that treated the first domestic case of Ebola responded to "distressing" claims of negligence and breach of privacy brought by a nurse who cared for the patient and caught the deadly disease.
Nina Pham, 26, sued Texas Health Resources on Monday 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 Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.
The case set off a month-long public health crisis in North Texas that involved monitoring more than 100 possible contacts, sterilization of several locations and school closures.
Pham claims the hospital failed to provide her and her coworkers with adequate Ebola training or protective equipment that could have prevented her illness. She also claims hospital officials ignored her request to release no information about her when she tested positive, and used her as a "PR pawn" when the hospital faced withering public criticism for its handling of the case .
Hours after Pham's attorney filed the lawsuit, Texas Health Resources sent employees an email message responding to her allegations.
"THR was sensitive to Nina's privacy, and we adhered to HIPAA rules in determining what information to share publicly," Texas Health Resources CEO Barclay Berdan said. "We had Nina's consent to share the information about her that was released."
Chief clinical officer Dr. Daniel Varga apologized to a U.S. House committee during the crisis for Texas Health Resources' mishandling of the case, which resulted in Pham and nurse Amber Vinson being infected. Berdan said the company "stands behind Dr. Varga's statements."
"Dr. Daniel Varga's testimony before Congress was factual and accurate, and any implication to the contrary is both false and irresponsible," Berdan said.
Berdan said the company has continued to support Pham because of its "strong culture of caring and compassion" and views its employees as "family."
"As distressing as the lawsuit is to us, we remain optimistic that we can resolve this matter with Nina," Berdan said.
In her lawsuit, Pham says she was turned into "a symbol of corporate neglect - a casualty of a hospital system's failure to prepare for a known and impending medical crisis."
"I was hoping that THR would be more open and honest about everything that happened at the hospital, and the things they didn't do that led to me getting infected with Ebola," Pham said in a statement Monday. "But that didn't happen and I felt I was left with no choice but to turn to the courts for help. 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 anxiety about the long-term effects of Ebola and the experimental drugs she was given. Her hair has been falling out and she worries about her ability to have children.Follow @davejourno
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