Nina Pham, the Dallas nurse who made headlines last year after surviving the deadly Ebola virus, has filed a lawsuit against her employer, alleging the healthcare company violated her privacy, lied about her condition to save its reputation, and failed to provide the proper equipment and training to sufficiently protect her from the disease.
Pham, 26, caught Ebola from her patient, Liberian native Thomas Eric Duncan, while caring for him at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital last October. She was initially treated at Presbyterian, where she requested the hospital provide "no information" to the public about her.
But, according to a lawsuit Pham and her family have filed against the hospital's parent company, Texas Health Resources, the hospital network did just the opposite in a disturbing PR stunt.
In the lawsuit, Pham, who is a devout Christian, alleges that shortly after her diagnosis, the hospital published a news release, which announced, "Nina Pham is in good condition." However, progress notes from Pham's pulmonologist on that day showed the 26-year-old's condition to be "critical." Additionally, the doctor wrote that he reviewed "end of life" resuscitation wishes with Pham but ultimately "discussed plan of care with family as patient unable to make their own clinical decisions," the AFP reports.
Pham also alleges that a Presbyterian doctor recorded her on video in her hospital room with a GoPro camera tucked under his hood, and released it to the public without her knowledge or permission.
"Come to Maryland, everybody, I love you guys," Pham says in the emotional video as she begins to wipe away tears. The video, which is no longer available, spurred multiple "Nina is our hero!" tweets and admiration for her dog, Bentley. A company press release quoted Pham as saying, "I am #presbyproud!"
"Never once did THR get Nina's permission to be used as a PR pawn like this. Never once did THR discuss its purposes or motivations or tell Nina what it was going to do with the information it sought from her," the suit reads.
In perhaps the most shocking accusation of all, Pham says the hospital is guilty of negligence because it failed to develop policies and train its staff for treating Ebola patients. In fact, Texas Health Resources did not even have proper protective gear for those who treated Duncan, the lawsuit claims.
"The sum total of the information Nina was provided to protect herself before taking on her patient was what her manager 'Googled' and printed out from the Internet," the suit alleges.
Because they had no specific instructions, the nurses made up their own personal protective gear protocols, the AFP reports. Additionally, due to the lack of proper hazmat teams, the healthcare workers were forced to dispose of hazardous waste by tying the material in knotted sheets and putting it in a separate room.
"Nina Pham would have been better off treating Mr. Duncan in a Liberian Ebola center than in THR's signature hospital," the lawsuit states.
Although Pham eventually recovered from the disease after being transferred to the National Institutes of Health in Maryland and receiving blood transfusions from Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly, she continues to experience crippling side effects, including nightmares, body aches and insomnia.
"I wanted to believe that they would have my back and take care of me, but they just haven't risen to the occasion," Pham told The Dallas Morning News last week.
She added that she hopes her lawsuit will "make hospitals and big corporations realize that nurses and health care workers, especially frontline people, are important. And we don't want nurses to start turning into patients."
On Tuesday, Texas Health Resources spokesperson Wendell Watson released the following statement: "Nina Pham bravely served Texas Health Dallas during a most difficult time. We continue to support and wish the best for her, and we remain optimistic that constructive dialogue can resolve this matter."