Dr. Joseph Howard Meier was well into his overnight ER shift when he first saw the patient.
The man complained of a headache and abdominal pain. Meier looked him over, checked his vital signs and ordered tests. After a few hours, Meier diagnosed him with sinusitis, prescribed antibiotics and sent him home.
That night at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas would become part of U.S. medical history.
The patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, returned two days later in an ambulance. He was far sicker than before, and a blood test soon revealed his true condition as Ebola. Meier, it turned out, had been the first physician to encounter a patient with the deadly virus in an American emergency room.
And he’d missed it.
In Meier’s first public remarks since then, he described the experience as “a little bit like getting struck by lightning, but mild in comparison to what Mr. Duncan’s family has gone through in losing a loved one to Ebola.”
Presbyterian Hospital’s handling of Duncan’s initial visit has come under national scrutiny. The world learned Duncan had just arrived from Ebola-stricken Liberia, something Meier says he didn’t know at the time. Hospital administrators apologized to Congress for the misdiagnosis after offering shifting explanations. They pointed to a nurse’s actions, then to flawed electronic records, then said the records had no flaw.
Absent from hospital statements, government hearings, and wall-to-wall news coverage was almost anything about the person most central to Duncan’s initial care — the doctor.
SOURCE: REESE DUNKLIN AND STEVE THOMPSON
The Dallas Morning News