By Tim Hayes
The world watches, with increasing anger and disbelief, the monumentally unfunny comedy of errors surrounding the steadily creeping spread of the Ebola virus. It offers a real-time case study in how botched communication can not only lead to mistakes, but in this case, to people’s deaths.
Let’s start with the arrival in Dallas of a man who had flown in from western Africa, where the fist of Ebola had begun its chokehold. He goes to the emergency room, explains where he had just been, and complains of a high temperature. Instead of admitting him, the ER team hands him a prescription for an antibiotic and shows him the door.
Turns out, as the story develops later, he may not have offered a full disclosure of all the facts surrounding his case. Poor communication on his part, no doubt. But the medical professionals treating him had enough facts to suspect something beyond your run-of-the-mill flu virus. Poor communication on their part, too.
The man died less than a week later.
So far, two nurses treating that patient have contracted Ebola. News reports explain that no special protocols had been established in that hospital in the early days of his treatment, despite the Centers for Disease Control involvement and the eyes of the nation focused on Dallas. Later, we learn that one of the nurses got on a packed commercial airplane flight, even after contacting the CDC and describing her situation, complete with suffering from a slight fever.
Poor communication all around. Both of the nurses are receiving appropriate care at this point, and don’t appear to be headed in the wrong direction. Damn lucky, if you ask me.
Then there’s the pathetic case of Dr. Nancy Snyderman, chief medical correspondent for NBC News. Any time there’s a health-related event occurring, there’s Dr. Nancy with her smiling visage, offering all of us uneducated rubes out here in TV land her snappy soundbites on what’s going on, how concerned we need to be, and how it’s all going to work out in the end.
Snyderman and a camera crew had traveled to western Africa as the Ebola story began to pick up steam. Upon their return to the U.S., one of the camera operators learned he had contracted the virus. As a result, every member of the team volunteered to undertake a 21-day quarantine – the amount of isolation time needed to see if anyone else would have been infected.
Now, remember, this woman presents herself as an international expert on all health-related matters, and I would have to assume gets paid handsomely for it. So, not midway through her 21-day quarantine, where did Dr. Nancy get busted? At a restaurant in Princeton, New Jersey, with a photo of her little outing plastered all over the media.
Good grief, where to begin? Besides obliterating any credibility she may have had as a health care “expert,” she could have placed dozens of other people in real danger. The hypocrisy? Stunning. The stupidity and selfishness? Inexcusable. The fact that Snyderman hasn’t been fired just proves the shallowness and ignorance of her bosses at NBC.
This Ebola stuff is serious, gang. It’s way past time for people – patients, nurses, doctors, government officials, and media representatives – to get just as serious, and communicate fully, openly, intelligently, and effectively. Otherwise, a lot more people are headed for a really bad time.
Copyright 2014 Transverse Park Productions LLC and Tim Hayes Consulting