Earlier, I blogged about two NMC employees being fired for viewing Dr. Sacara’s medical records without authorization. Dr. Sacara had been treated for Ebola at NMC.
Recently, a man in Texas was diagnosed with Ebola. This is different from Dr. Sacara, who was being treated at NMC for Ebola. In other words, NMC knew of Dr. Sacara’s condition. The Texas patient contacted Ebola in Liberia, traveled to the United States without any symptoms, fell ill, and visited an emergency room.
The emergency room actually released him from its care. It did this despite taking a travel history from the patient and learning he had recently been to Liberia, an Ebola hotspot.
Evidently, this travel history was not communicated to the decision-makers, as the Ebola-positive patient was released with a prescription for antibiotics. He returned to the greater community at large.
CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta described the situation as follows: the patient’s travel history “was not acted upon in an appropriate way.” A nurse did ask the question and he did respond that he was in Liberia and that wasn’t transmitted to people who were in charge of his care,” Gupta said. “There’s no excuse for this.”
This case raises a number of important questions:
Of the duty of a hospital to take an appropriate history and act on that history.
Of the liability of the hospital if, however unlikely it may be, members of the public contract Ebola after the patient was released.
Of the patient’s potential claim against the hospital if his chances of survival were decreased due to the hospital releasing him while he was Ebola positive.