An official at the Dallas hospital where a Liberian man died of Ebola and two nurses were infected with the deadly disease is expected on Thursday to apologize for errors diagnosing Thomas Eric Duncan, saying “we made mistakes," in prepared remarks.
“Unfortunately, in our initial treatment of Mr. 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. We are deeply sorry,” Dr. Daniel Varga, chief clinical officer and senior vice president at Texas Health Resources, which runs Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, is expected to tell the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
In prepared testimony posted online Wednesday, Varga says the entire medical team was “devastated” when Duncan, 42, died Oct. 8. When Duncan, a Liberian national visiting the U.S., first went to the hospital complaining of symptoms he was initially sent home, resulting in a delay of treatment. Since then two of Duncan's nurses, Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, have tested positive for the disease.
“A lot is being said about what may or may not have occurred to cause Ms. Pham to contract Ebola. 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,” Varga says in the prepared remarks. “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’s testimony also says the hospital rushed to provide information about Duncan’s case, and that it “inadvertently provided some information that was inaccurate and had to be corrected," exacerbating fears in the community.
Also Thursday, Texas Health Presbyterian responded to allegations from a national nurses' association that there were no protocols in place to protect health care workers from Ebola. In a statement, the hospital said staff wore "appropriate personal protective equipment" consistent with CDC guidelines, including shoe covers and face shields.
The hospital also went "above and beyond" CDC recommendations on hazardous waste, the hospital said, containing it in safe locations.
However, some haz-mat suits were too large for workers, the hospital admitted. "We have since received smaller sizes, but it is possible that nurses used tape to cinch the suits for a better fit," the statement said.
— Phil Helsel and Elizabeth Chuck