Last week, a House committee was holding hearings on Ebola, and on Thursday Dr. Daniel Varga, the Chief Clinical Officer and Senior Executive Vice President for Texas Health Resources -- the hospital in Dallas that had treated the initial Ebola patient in the U.S. -- was scheduled to testify. Obviously, he had far more pressing matters back in Dallas, and instead sent a long statement to the committee.
At the bottom of the first page, he wrote the following --
As the first hospital in the country to both diagnose and treat a patient with Ebola, we are
When I got to the line, "we are committed to using our experience to help other hospitals..." my initial thought was, yes, that invaluable experience will be part of a list titled, "Things Not to Do When Treating Ebola."
But when I got to the last sentence above, "We are very sorry," I came close to bursting out laughing, except that it's not really funny.
To be fair to Dr. Varga, it's actually an impressive document, full of a great deal of detail on procedures to take and an open examination on actions by the hospital. It's a serious, intelligent paper. And as is well-known here, I think it important when people stand up and be forthright in apology.
Good and critical as the testimony is, and for as much intense thought that was put into it, I couldn't help but think they could have come up with something a whole lot better than "We are deeply sorry." All that was missing was, "And we will never do it again."
By the way, I know that even the world's great phrasing is minor here. Far more essential is the medical study and procedural evaluation on how to deal with the situation. But when you're about to get into such profoundly serious matters, the last thing you want to do is "lose" your audience with eye-rolling and head-slapping before you have a chance to delve into your issue.
I mean, c'mon, guy, you had a chance to contain a catastrophic deadly epidemic, and almost everything your hospital did -- among much valiant and brave effort -- that could go wrong you did, and the virus slipped out of your immediate control with a chance of spreading significantly. And "we are deeply sorry" seems so...small. Imagine the captain of the Titanic as he's going down for the last time gurgling that out. Across the great void of the ocean, you hear a distant, sputtering voice, "On behalf of your crew, we are deeply sorry..." And now imagine that it's a fleet of Titanics covering the ocean out to the horizon who are all sinking and looking to the initial captain who missed the iceberg.
I know that we're not even close to that right now. Nor do I at all believe we will get even close to that. There are procedures which can be done to control the virus, that is still in the highly-containable stage. But the fact that this is so serious that such a hearing was necessary -- and it is that serious, beyond the political grandstanding which will inherently go on -- is all the more reason that people are looking for words of importance. And "We are deeply sorry" is what you say when you're in a fender-bender and totaled the other car, and put the driver in the hospital with a broken leg. Not when your repeated mistakes risked unleashing a worldwide Plague that can wipe out many millions. Happily, the rest of his document, the scientific and medical part, the critically important portion, was excellent.
But still...C'mon, guy.
If anyone is offended by my comments here, we are deeply sorry...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor