Texas hospital defends treatment of Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan

Jason Sickles
Thomas Eric Duncan died at Texas Health Presbyterian on Wednesday. (Jim Young/Reuters)

DALLAS The hospital where Thomas Eric Duncan died defended its treatment of the Ebola patient on Thursday, maintaining that he received “appropriate and available medical interventions.”

“A team of more than 50 people cared for him in a professional and compassionate manner,” Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said in a written statement. “An entire 24-bed intensive care unit was secured and dedicated to Mr. Duncan’s care.”

Thomas Eric Duncan in 2011 (AP)

The hospital has been scrutinized from the beginning for failing to diagnosis Duncan’s Ebola when he came to their emergency room on Sept. 25. Instead, he was sent home with antibiotics, where he became sicker and likely more contagious.

He returned in an ambulance three days later and was immediately placed in isolation. Test results on Sept. 30 confirmed the deadly virus, making Duncan the first person to ever be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States.

The Liberian citizen who had traveled to Texas on Sept. 20 was in isolation for 10 days before passing away at 7:51 a.m. on Wednesday. The hospital says Duncan’s heart stopped, and at his request, they said, they did not try to resuscitate him.

“Early in his hospital stay, Mr. Duncan had expressed his wishes to his attending physician that the care team should not perform chest compressions, defibrillation or cardioversion to prolong his life,” the hospital said.

[Related: Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan's story of love and loss]

Some of Duncan’s family members, including his fiancee who lives in Dallas and is now under quarantine for Ebola monitoring, questioned if he was getting the same level of hospitalization as American missionaries who survived after becoming infected in West Africa and getting treatment in the United States.

“I trust a thorough examination will take place regarding all aspects of his care,” fiancee Louise Troh said in a statement after his death.

The hospital explained that Duncan did not get the experimental drug ZMapp like some others, because the supply was exhausted on Aug. 12. Nor did he get a serum transfusion, because his blood type was not compatible with donors. There are no specific treatments known to kill the Ebola virus, which has claimed the lives of more than 3,400 people in West Africa this year.

Timeline of Duncan's Ebola illness in the United States (AP)

Duncan, 42, did start receiving, brincidofovir, an investigational anti-viral drug four days before his death.

“After consulting with experts across the country, the CDC, and the FDA, the investigative drug was administered as soon as his physicians determined that his condition warranted it, and as soon as it could be obtained,” the hospital said. “Mr. Duncan was the first Ebola patient to receive this drug.”

Texas Health Presbyterian officials initially blamed a flawed records system for the mix-up in not isolating and testing Duncan on his first visit to the emergency room. They later retracted that explanation. No other explanation has been given for how the Ebola diagnosis was overlooked, despite knowing Duncan had recently arrived from disease-ravaged Liberia.

“Clearly there was a misstep early on when he wasn’t diagnosed immediately when he came to the emergency room,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CNN. “But I cannot believe  as a physician who deals with physicians and hospitals all over that they deliberately in any way did not give this man the best possible care that they had.”

On Thursday, the hospital said Duncan’s first ER visit lasted four hours and included numerous test. They denied that anything missed had to do with his race or ability to pay.

“We have a long history of treating a multicultural community in this area,” the hospital said. “The nurses, doctors, and team who cared for him, as well as the entire Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas community, grieve the loss of Mr. Duncan.”

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