Ebola: 5 things nurses say the Texas hospital got wrong

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(CNN) — A nurses’ union is sounding the alarm about the lack of safety protocols at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas after two nurses there apparently contracted Ebola from a patient who later died of the virus.

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said the claims made by National Nurses United, if true, are “startling.”

A hospital spokesman did not respond to the specific allegations, but said the hospital’s focus is on patient safety and a safe working environment.

Here’s a look at some of the allegations the nurses made, according to the union:

Claim: Duncan wasn’t immediately isolated

On the day that patient 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.

Claim: The nurses’ protective gear 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.

Claim: At one point, 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.”

Claim: Nurses got no ‘hands-on’ training

“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.

Claim: The nurses ‘feel unsupported’

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 National Nurses United Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro, the nurses were upset after authorities appeared to blame nurse 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.

The union did not identify the nurses they spoke to in order to protect them from possible retaliation.

Hospital spokesman Wendell Watson said the hospital takes “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,” Watson said.

The Dallas mayor declined to comment on the accusations against the hospital.

“I don’t comment on anonymous allegations,” Mike Rawlings said.

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a statement following the union’s claims.

“For health care workers in Dallas and elsewhere, the Ebola situation is extremely difficult,” CDC spokesman Tom Skinner wrote.

“The CDC is committed to their safety, and we’ll continue to do everything possible to make sure they have what they need so they can prepare to safely manage Ebola patients.”

CNN’s Michael Martinez, Dave Alsup and Miriam Falco contributed to this report.

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