Sutter Health’s Alta Bates fined for health, safety violations
Sacramento Business Journal, 5/21/13
State regulators have slapped Sutter Health's Alta Bates hospital in Oakland with potential fines totaling $142,970 for six health and safety violations related to failure to properly isolate patients with airborne diseases such as tuberculosis.
Senior Staff Writer- Sacramento Business Journal
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State regulators have slapped Sutter Health’s Alta Bates hospital in Oakland with potential fines totaling $142,970 for six health and safety violations related to failure to properly isolate patients with airborne diseases such as tuberculosis.
Two violations were determined to be “serious” and “willful,” carrying a proposed penalty of $70,000 each.
The news came on day four of a weeklong strike by registered nurses and other caregivers at five East Bay Sutter hospitals, including Alta Bates. The walkout has affected more than 3,100 nurses and respiratory, X-ray and other technicians at Alta Bates Summit hospitals in Oakland and Berkeley, Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley and Sutter Delta in Antioch. Workers are represented by California Nurses Association/National Nurses United.
The union held a rally at Alta Bates Summit at noon Monday to highlight the violations. A hospital spokeswoman said Sutter will appeal them.
Between Nov. 15, 2012 and Jan. 14, 2013, Alta Bates put at least 23 potentially infectious patients in 17 different rooms within the intensive care and progressive care units that were not state-required negative pressure isolation rooms, according to state documents for one citation.
Alta Bates repeatedly placed suspected airborne infection cases in what was supposed to be a negative pressure isolation room that didn't meet state guidelines for negative air pressure or number of air exchanges per hour, the second serious, willful citation states.
The other four violations include proposed fines of $425 for lack of record keeping on decisions not to transfer potentially infectious patients to another facility, $1,060 for failure to test isolation rooms annually or after alterations, $635 for failure to ensure negative pressure was visually demonstrated by smoke trails or other means and $850 for failure to make sure employees use respirators when performing procedures on cases of suspected infectious disease.
“These are extremely serious safety violations that expose everyone who enters or works in that hospital to severe risk,” CNA co-president Malinda Markowitz said in a news release. “What makes this behavior even more disturbing is that Sutter knew they had a significant problem with isolating potentially infectious patients and did nothing to correct it or notify staff or the public,” added Mike Hill, a registered nurse at Alta Bates.
Following a visit in November 2012, state regulators cited Alta Bates for violations in the areas of record keeping, training and instructions and equipment inspection, hospital spokeswoman Stacey Wells said in a statement.
“We welcome these types of regulatory reviews by Cal/OSHA and other regulators and we take them very seriously. However, based on the facts, we are compelled to appeal these findings,” she said.
The hospital has committed a team of infection control and prevention, engineering, nursing, risk management and safety employees to look into the matter and ensure a safe hospital environment, the statement reads. Management is reviewing policies and procedures — as it does regularly, she added.
Kathy Robertson covers health care, law and lobbying, labor, workplace issues and immigration for the Sacramento Business Journal.