Nurses claim "guidelines were constantly changing" at the hospital, a union says
When protective gear left their necks exposed, they say they were told to use medical tape
A hospital spokesman says safety is the top priority
The union hasn't revealed how many nurses they spoke with or identified them
A union made troubling allegations Tuesday about the Texas hospital where a nurse contracted Ebola, claiming “guidelines were constantly changing” and “there were no protocols” about how to deal with the deadly virus.”
“The protocols that should have been in place in Dallas were not in place, and that those protocols are not in place anywhere in the United States as far as we can tell,” National Nurses United Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro said. “We’re deeply alarmed.”
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said the claims, if true, are “startling.” Some of them, he said, could be “important when it comes to possible other infections.”
Officials from National Nurses United declined to specify how many nurses they had spoken with at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. They said they would not identify the nurses or elaborate on how the nurses learned of the details in their allegations in order to protect them from possible retaliation. The nurses at the hospital are not members of a union, officials said.
Here’s a look at some of the allegations the nurses made, according to the union:
Thomas Eric Duncan wasn’t immediately isolated.
On the day that Thomas Eric Duncan was admitted to the hospital with possible Ebola symptoms, he was “left for several hours, not in isolation, in an area where other patients were present,” union co-president Deborah Burger said.
Up to seven other patients were present in that area, the nurses said, according to the union.
A nursing supervisor faced resistance from hospital authorities when the supervisor demanded that Duncan be moved to an isolation unit, the nurses said, according to the union.
At first, protective gear nurses were wearing while treating Duncan left their necks exposed.
After expressing concerns that their necks were exposed even as they wore protective gear, the nurses were told to wrap their necks with medical tape, the union says.
“They were told to use medical tape and had to use four to five pieces of medical tape wound around their neck. The nurses have expressed a lot of concern about how difficult it is to remove the tape from their neck,” Burger said.
At one point during Duncan’s care, hazardous waste piled up.
“There was no one to pick up hazardous waste as it piled to the ceiling,” Burger said. “They did not have access to proper supplies.”
Nurses got no “hands-on” training about using protective gear.
“There was no mandate for nurses to attend training,” Burger said, though they did receive an e-mail about a hospital seminar on Ebola.
“This was treated like hundreds of other seminars that were routinely offered to staff,” she said.
The nurses “feel unsupported, unprepared, lied to and deserted.”
So why did the group of nurses – the union wouldn’t say how many – contact the nursing union, which they don’t belong to?
According to DeMoro, the nurses were upset after authorities appeared to blame nurse Nina Pham, who has contracted Ebola, for not following protocols.
“This nurse was being blamed for not following protocols that did not exist. … The nurses in that hospital were very angry, and they decided to contact us,” DeMoro said.
And they’re worried conditions at the hospital “may lead to infection of other nurses and patients,” Burger said.
A hospital spokesman did not respond to the specific allegations, but said patient and employee safety is the hospital’s top priority.
“We take compliance very seriously. We have numerous measures in place to provide a safe working environment, including mandatory annual training and a 24-7 hotline and other mechanisms that allow for anonymous reporting,” hospital spokesman Wendell Watson said. “Our nursing staff is committed to providing quality, compassionate care, as we have always known, and as the world has seen firsthand in recent days. We will continue to review and respond to any concerns raised by our nurses and all employees.”
The Dallas mayor declined to comment on the accusations against the hospital.
“I don’t comment on anonymous allegations,” Mike Rawlings said.
CNN’s Dave Alsup contributed to this report.