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'We Never Talked About Ebola' Before First Patient Arrived, Presbyterian Nurse Tells NBC

Briana Aguirre, a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian, spoke on NBC's "Today" show Thursday morning.

A Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital nurse said hospital workers were not prepared to handle Ebola before Thomas Eric Duncan arrived in late September. The nurse, Briana Aguirre, spoke with NBC’s “Today” show Thursday morning.

“I can no longer defend my hospital at all,” Aguirre said. “I believe they should have known that they were not handling this well, this Ebola crisis. They should have known it was getting out of hand. They should have called in more help.”

Aguirre said she watched the hospital “violate basic principles of nursing care.”

Duncan first arrived at Presbyterian Sept. 25, but was sent home. He returned Sept. 28 and died Oct. 8.

Aguirre did not care for Duncan. But she did care for Nina Pham, her co-worker who contracted Ebola after caring for Duncan.  

Ebola wasn’t discussed at Presbyterian before Duncan arrived at the hospital, other than an optional informational seminar for workers, Aguirre said.

“We weren’t told what to look for,” Aguirre told NBC.“I don’t think any facility in this country is prepared at this time.”

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on Thursday said the facility followed federal guidelines in treating Duncan, the man who contracted Ebola in Liberia. Last month, he flew to Dallas to visit family and friends. 

The hospital statement follows criticism from a national nurses union. National Nurses United, citing unnamed nurses from Presbyterian, said that nurses at the Dallas hospital weren’t properly trained to handle Ebola. The union claims and that Duncan’s lab samples were sent through the hospital’s tube system without being sealed. KERA hasn’t been able to confirm the allegations.

The hospital statement says Duncan was moved directly to a private room and isolated. Staffers wore appropriate personal protective equipment as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the time.

"The assertions do not reflect actual facts learned from the medical record and interactions with clinical caregivers," the statement says.

The hospital also says Duncan’s specimens did not leak or spill into its tube delivery system. During Duncan’s second visit to the hospital, starting Sept. 28, the specimens were not placed in the tube system.

Watch part of the "Today" interview here:

Eric Aasen is KERA’s managing editor. He helps lead the station's news department, including radio and digital reporters, producers and newscasters. He also oversees, the station’s news website, and manages the station's digital news projects. He reports and writes stories for the website and contributes pieces to KERA radio. He's discussed breaking news live on various public radio programs, including The Takeaway, Here & Now and Texas Standard, as well as radio and TV programs in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.