Nina Pham, the 26-year-old nurse who contracted Ebola while caring a patient, has filed suit in Dallas County against Texas Health Resources. Pham was employed at Texas Health Presbyterian when she became infected while caring for the first person diagnosed in the U.S.
In a statement released Monday, Pham said she was “left with no choice but to turn to the courts for help” because Texas Health Resources was not forthcoming about what occurred at the hospital during the incident last fall, which also left nurse Amber Vinson infected after caring for patient Thomas Eric Duncan.
“I was hoping that THR would be more honest and open about everything at the hospital, and the things they didn’t do that led to me getting infected with Ebola,” Pham said in the statement.
Pham’s statement says that she is now facing a number of issues with regard to her health and career and the lawsuit provides a way for her to address them, but more importantly, to “uncover the truth about what happened” and educate health care providers and administrators for future public health emergencies.
According to an interview published by The Dallas Morning News on Feb. 28, Pham continues to suffer from body aches and insomnia after she contracted the disease.
Pham said the hospital's lack of training, proper equipment and violations of her privacy made her "a symbol of corporate neglect— a casualty of a hospital system's failure to prepare for a known and impending medical crisis."
She also told the newspaper that Texas Health Resources was negligent because it failed to develop policies and train its staff for treating Ebola patients. She said the company did not have proper protective gear for those who treated Duncan, who died after becoming the first person in the U.S. diagnosed with the disease stemming from an outbreak in West Africa. Duncan, who contracted the disease on a visit to his native Liberia, died last fall only days before Pham tested positive for the disease.
She told paper she was frightened when Duncan tested positive for Ebola as panic and fear spread throughout the hospital.
"I was the last person beside Mr. Duncan to find out he was positive," she told the Morning News. "You'd think the primary nurse would be the first to know."
Her attorney, Charla Aldous, said Texas Health Resources "used Nina as a PR pawn."
The Morning News said Wendell Watson, a spokesman for Texas Health Resources, declined to address specifics of Pham's allegations.
"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," Watson said.
According to the Associated Press, Pham will ask in her lawsuit for unspecified damages for physical pain and mental anguish, medical expenses and loss of future earnings. But she said that she wants to "make hospitals and big corporations realize that nurses and health care workers, especially front line people, are important. And we don't want nurses to start turning into patients."
Pham was initially treated in Texas and was released last October from a hospital attached to the National Institutes of Health near Washington D.C.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.