Remember Nina Pham? She was the first American to contract Ebola.
In fact, she was the face of the national pandemic after caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, the man who contracted the disease in Liberia. Today, she is alive (which is saying something), no longer working at Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas Hospital, on a menu of experimental drugs, and being treated with a weekly regimen of special follow-up care.
She is also preparing to sue her former employer for 37 pages worth of negligence and invasion of privacy.
The Dallas Morning News reports Pham, 26, believes the hospital and its parent company, Texas Health Resources, failed her and other colleagues who cared for Duncan. She continues to believes the “hospital’s lack of training and proper equipment and violations of her privacy made her ‘a symbol of corporate neglect — a casualty of a hospital system’s failure to prepare for a known and impending medical crisis.'”
In public relations, we learn to consider perception and reality as two different things that are not always interchangeable. In this case, for example:
Perception holds that this hospital was completely overwhelmed by a foreign, infectious and deadly disease and made several critical errors in the process of responding.
In Reality, it’s understandable that the Dallas hospital was not properly prepared, given what a surprise it was when Duncan showed up and tragically died days later.
The question: did the hospital’s imperfect response amount to negligence?
In terms of privacy, Pham certainly has a legitimate complaint as her name spread through North Texas and across the country faster than a tweet about free plastic surgery in Uptown Dallas.
“I believe in the power of prayer because I know so many people all over the world have been praying for me. Although I no longer have Ebola, I know that it may be a while before I have my strength back.”
Now comes the media tour: should she or shouldn’t she? Would it hurt public perception or just give observers a greater grasp on reality?