To the editor: As a registered nurse and a retired nurse administer, I was concerned about the perception that the failure to identify Ebola symptoms during the patient's initial hospital visit focused on the nurse. Research has shown that most serious medical errors cannot be attributed to one individual but are usually the result of an organizational failure. ("Officials begin tracing contacts of Texas patient diagnosed with Ebola," Sept. 30)
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas likely had multiple levels of safety checks in place to identify potential Ebola patients. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a checklist that should be used when assessing patients for possible Ebola, which should have been part of the patient's medical record and available to healthcare professionals interacting with the patient. The physician seeing the patient should have questioned the patient as part of his medical history.
Nurses and physicians do not come to work intent on erring; they come to work wanting to do the right thing for their patients. Sadly, errors still occur.
We can only learn from our errors if we do not place the blame on one individual but take a hard look at the organization and hold everyone accountable. Only then will we learn what actually happened so we can prevent such an error from occurring again.
Ann Ellenson, Marina del Rey
To the editor: I'm not afraid of Ebola becoming a worldwide pandemic. I'm not even worried about a local outbreak in Dallas.
What's troubling to me is the disconnect between Texas Department of State Health Services commissioner Dr. David Lakey's assurance — that "this is not West Africa. This is a very sophisticated … hospital" — and the report that Thomas Eric Duncan's first visit to the hospital ended with doctors sending him away with antibiotics because "they thought clinically it was a low-grade common viral disease."
Antibiotics are not effective against viruses.
David Bortin, Whittier
To the editor: News of a visitor to the U.S. from Liberia who is now known to be infected with Ebola virus is infuriating. It was not a failure of hospital procedure that was at fault so much as it was a failure of U.S. policy.
Any traveler from West Africa should automatically be quarantined for the full incubation period. The Department of Homeland Security could team up with the CDC to carry out this policy. Instead, we have yet another case (like the 9/11 attacks) of closing the barn door after the horses are out.
W.A. Sauvageot, Tustin