Occupational Health & Safety

California Hospital Cited for Workplace Violence Violations

Cal/OSHA penalized the hospital for having an ineffective training program, incomplete and inadequate procedures to deal with safety concerns, and an “incomplete and untimely hazard correction for workplace violence exposures in the emergency department.”

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) recently fined Children’s Hospital in Oakland, Calif., for allegedly failing to protect workers from violence in the emergency department.

According to an Associated Press report, authorities said a homeless man stormed into the hospital’s emergency room in July 2010 and held a nurse and ward clerk hostage before being subdued. In October, a gunshot victim was dropped off in front of the hospital instead of the emergency room and nurses reported feeling unsafe while tending to the victim outside.

Cal/OSHA penalized the hospital for having an ineffective training program, incomplete and inadequate procedures to deal with safety concerns, and an “incomplete and untimely hazard correction for workplace violence exposures in the emergency department.” The citations total $10,350.

On Feb. 22, the same day Cal/OSHA issued the citations, registered nurses from Children’s Hospital in Oakland and the California Nurses Association (CNA) held a media conference citing the hospital’s failure to comply with mandated security regulations that put staff and patients in danger over a three-year period.

According to the union, during the last year nurses have expressed concerns that the hospital is cutting corners on staff training in ways that put caregivers and the public at risk. “We have demanded that our employer provide us with the training we need to care for the children of Oakland. Instead they have disregarded their obligations, and we applaud the state for its actions, while we insist CHO provide a safe environment for everyone who comes through our doors,” said Martha Kuhl, a nurse at Children’s Hospital in Oakland.

According to CNA, nurses complained to Cal/OSHA after the incidents in October 2010, when multiple gunshot victims arrived within minutes of each other, including one who was dropped off in the driveway.

In a statement Feb. 22, Nancy Shibata, chief nursing officer for Children’s Hospital in Oakland, said that CNA “sensationalized the administrative citations we expect to receive from Cal/OSHA, making them into something that they are not. We are terribly disappointed in the union using this occasion to further its agenda so it can apply pressure at the bargaining table.”

The hospital expects to appeal the citations, and that the incident last October that appears to have precipitated the Cal/OSHA visit was previously investigated by the California Department of Health Services, Shibata noted.

“It is unfortunate that the very union who claims to put patients first is the very one who is inciting fear and mistrust of our wounded patients seeking emergency care,” Shibata said.

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