In an interview with NBC’s Kate Snow, Dr. Daniel Varga addressed concerns surrounding Thomas Eric Duncan’s Ebola diagnosis and opened up about two Texas Health Presbyterian nurses now battling the virus.
“We have accountability in this particular situation,” Varga said. “There are things we could’ve handled better, you know the places where we didn’t perform up to our expectations have devastated us. Mr. Duncan’s death was really hard on staff and everybody at Presby and Texas Health Resources, and then right after that we’re looking at the double punch of Nina and Amber both getting ill.”
When asked to address a broader context of if the hospital failed, Varga replied, “I think that’s an unfair characterization. I think there's two really important things to understand. There's a big difference between diagnosing Ebola and treating Ebola. I think Presby has done a great job of managing Ebola patients, both Mr. Duncan and Nina, here in our hospital, they've gotten exceptional care. We hope Nina is gonna do really well. As I said, we were devastated by Mr. Duncan's loss.”
Varga admitted the hospital fell short in initially diagnosing Duncan.
“The diagnosing Ebola piece was one where we fell short of our own expectations there.” He went on to say, “For the first time in the history of the United States, somebody with Ebola walked in the front door, and we missed that.”
As for accusations nurses weren’t given the proper personal protection equipment, Varga stands by the use of PPE and says the hospital always followed CDC recommendations.
“The personal protective equipment we had in place meets and met the CDC guidelines for diseases where you have to implement contact and droplet precaution,” Varga said, “Clearly the protection was inadequate for Nina and for Amber.”
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Varga said the hospital still doesn’t know how Nina Pham and Amber Vinson were infected with the virus.
“They’re both experienced nurses, they both knew what they were doing. Everything we can see relative to documentation is that they absolutely followed the PPE guidelines that they had and did them religiously,” Varga said.
He says he hopes other hospital will learn from what happened in Dallas.
“I think our learning on this are that communication and dissemination of information is critical but you really have to train, you have to simulate, you have to reinforce to really make sure that when the first one happens you've got a high enough level of awareness to actually deal with it,” Varga said.
As for the staff at Texas Health Presbyterian, Varga says they are resilient and will, “bounce back”.
“Everybody grieved and was devastated when Duncan passed away, and right as people were kinda getting their feet again around that, one of our own, Nina comes in and then Amber, and so it’s, these folks have taken some body blows but they're great people,” Varga said, “They're incredibly dedicated, really smart, really effective health care workers here, our doctors, our nurses, all of the caregivers involved."