British Ebola survivor cleared of misleading doctors
The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) launched a disciplinary hearing against Pauline Cafferkey, 40, over accusations she knew her temperature was dangerously high when she received a screening check-up on arrival at London’s Heathrow Airport — but allowed a lower temperature to be recorded.
An independent panel in Edinburgh ruled that the three charges against her were not proven, that she had not set out to mislead health authorities and that her ability to practise again was “not impaired”.
Panel chairman Timothy Cole said there was “compelling and clear medical evidence” that the illness impaired Cafferkey’s ability to make clear decisions, according to the Press Association.
Her health was “going rapidly downhill” at the time of her screening and the process “occurred in circumstances characterised as disorganised and chaotic,” he added.
The nurse’s lawyer later issued a statement saying she would “never knowingly” put lives at risk and that she was “relieved the process is at an end”.
Cafferkey became infected with the deadly virus while working in Sierra Leone in December 2014, but returned home unaware of her illness.
A doctor screening Cafferkey at Heathrow found her temperature to be 38.2 degrees, which would require further testing under rules imposed by health authorities.
– ‘Very unwell’ –
The doctor told the hearing that a member of the group recording the values — “Registrant A” — suggested it be noted down as 37.2 degrees, thereby avoiding having to undergo further tests.
“Registrant A stated… that she would record the temperature as 37.2 degrees on Ms Cafferkey’s screening form and then they would ‘get out of here and sort it out’,” NMC representative Anu Thompson told the hearing Tuesday.
“Ms Cafferkey has stated she recalls the words ‘let’s get out of here’ being used but now cannot remember who said it or who entered the temperature of 37.2 on her screening form,” Thompson added.
Cafferkey travelled to her hometown of Glasgow the same day as she arrived back in Britain. It was the next day that she was diagnosed with Ebola after waking up and feeling “very unwell”.
Cafferkey was successfully treated within weeks of her diagnosis but suffered a relapse in October 2015, when she became critically ill with meningitis linked to Ebola.
She made a full recovery but was admitted for a third time in February to London’s Royal Free Hospital, Britain’s only isolation ward for Ebola, due to another relapse and again recovered.
More than 11,300 people died from the disease before the World Health Organization declared last month that the two-year Ebola outbreak in west Africa was over, although Sierra Leone has since recorded new cases.
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