DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – For Dallas’ Presbyterian Hospital, the public relations nightmare that began with the nation’s first Ebola diagnosis started at bad—and then quickly worsened.
Friday, the hospital’s Senior Vice President Dr. Daniel Varga told a congressional hearing, “despite our best intentions, and a highly skilled medical team, we made mistakes.”
Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan died. Then two nurses—Nina Pham and Amber Vinson—contracted the virus while treating him. Hospital officials still don’t know how the health workers were infected with the virus and patients began staying away.
“They just don’t want to be on a campus that has an Ebola patient,” said Dr. Jeff Goudreau. In spite of his repeated assurances about how the virus is spread, Dr. Goudreau says many patients remain unconvinced.
So what should happen now?
“They’re going to have to be very serious about making some changes,” said Toby Buchanan, Ph.D.
Buchanan heads the healthcare management program at Dallas Baptist University. He offered some advice for Presbyterian. “Make sure you’re doing everything that you can right from this point forward to isolate the virus and make sure it doesn’t spread any further. That’s going to be the key thing involved in restoring confidence later.”
And if that fails—there’s this: Buchanan said, “History shows that memories can be short.” So true. In the early 1980s, Tylenol initiated a nationwide recall and halted distribution after seven people died have taking capsules that had been tampered with.
And remember the exploding Firestone tires in 2000?
“Going back to tainted drugs, tainted milk, spills of oil and all the rest—a company can recover if they’re forthright and honest and prove that they’ve learned from their mistakes,” said Mike Davis, an economic at SMU’s Cox School of Business. Professor Davis says it’s too soon to say what the long term economic impact on Presbyterian Hospital might be. But, he does insist that the Ebola crisis has been a costly lesson in humility.
“We in the west tend to believe that technology protects us from everything and it really doesn’t. If you just don’t know how to do it, you’re going to have problems.”
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