October 18, 2014
'My Neck Was Exposed': Dallas Nurse Says Texas Hospital Did Not Have Proper Gear A Week Into Ebola Case

One Dallas nurse is claiming that the Texas Presbyterian Hospital was not prepared to handle an Ebola case. She claims the protective medical equipment being worn by nurses treating Ebola patients was still insufficient over a week into the treatment of the first patient.

Dallas nurse Briana Aguirre told CNN that the Dallas hospital didn't give her proper gear while she cared for the first nurse infected with Ebola, Nina Pham, even though it was more than a week into the Ebola response there. Aguirre said that the gear she was given when she cared for Pham included a Tyvex suit, gloves, and booties that covered most of her body -- but not her neck. Aguirre said she even questioned supervisors as to why her neck was exposed.

"I just told them, 'Why would an area so close to my mouth and my nose... be exposed? And they didn't have an answer."
She said she asked supervisors about new gear that would be more full-covering. She was told it had been ordered. However, she doesn't understand why the better equipment wasn't procured more quickly. The whole incident raised concerns for her, along with her colleagues who were more involved in Ebola care.
"I just know that the (two) nurses that have been infected, they were dealing with the same equipment while they were dealing with so much more than I dealt with personally. They put their lives on the line and without the proper equipment."
Aguirre also noted that prior to Thomas Duncan's quarantine at the hospital, no Ebola training had been given to nurses. There was one seminar on the subject, but it was optional. Therefore, she feels that the hospital and staff were ill-prepared for an Ebola case. The hospital responded by simply saying they were using medical gear that was within CDC guidelines.

According to USA Today, Aguirre has some harsh words for the hospital and CDC. A widely circulated video from Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas instructs nurses on how to dress in Ebola cases, as per CDC recommendations. It shows a nurse donning over-the-ankle booties, a gown, hairnet, and face shield. But her neck is bare.

"Can you imagine that being Nina (Pham) right there? And her being exposed to copious amounts of bodily fluid, diarrhea, and aerosolized secretions? That what makes me upset."
To protect their necks from Ebola fluids, Presbyterian nurses took the matter into their own hands, according to Aguirre. She says they began taping their necks with strips of protective tape. In removing the tape, exposure to the virus likely occurred, she suspects.

What seemed to upset Aquirre the most is the CDC's statements in regard to a "breach in protocol" to blame Pham when she did everything CDC had instructed.

"And then they want to blame her (Nina Pham) for getting sick when she was never provided the right supplies."