Press Release

Cal/OSHA finds Alta Bates campus of Alta Bates Summit Medical Center guilty of eight violations, cites Sutter for additional $141,750

RN speaks at vigil for Janine Paiste-Ponder, RN, at Sutter Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland
RN speaks at vigil for Janine Paiste-Ponder, RN, at Sutter Alta Bates Summit Medical Center - July 21, 2020

California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) has issued an additional $141,750 in fines to Sutter Health—along with eight new citations—for failing to notify nurses in two units at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Alta Bates Campus in Berkeley, Calif. that they had been exposed to Covid-19.

The latest fines come on the heels of $155,250 in fines and eight citations issued last week for serious Covid-related workplace safety violations at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Summit Campus in Oakland. (Read more about the Summit Campus citations and fines here.) This brings the total of Sutter’s fines to nearly $300,000 and the total citations to 16.

"Sutter Health continues to put patients, nurses and their families at risk by not complying with basic health and safety laws,” said Alta Bates Campus neonatal intensive care unit registered nurse Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto. “When exposed to Covid-19, we need to take the necessary precautions to not spread the disease. Anything less in negligence. My patients, my coworkers and our families deserve to be safe, so we expect Sutter to learn from these fines and make serious changes.”
Last week’s fines and citations at the Summit Campus followed the July 2020 death of Summit Campus registered nurse Janine Paiste-Ponder. Nurses say that the additional fines and citations at the Alta Bates Campus show a widespread pattern of negligence on Sutter’s part.

“Now that there are 16 Cal/OSHA citations across both campuses of the medical center, it is abundantly clear that there has been a fundamental breakdown and disregard for the safety of the nurses—including Sutter’s obligation to provide a safe working environment,” said Mike Hill, an RN and chief nurse representative at the Summit Campus. “Although these safety issues had been rejected by Sutter as not requiring action on their part, Cal/OSHA has made it crystal clear that they have an obligation to correct each and every safety issue cited.”

Cal/OSHA found in the most recent citations that Sutter failed to inform nurses in the neonatal intensive care unit and a critical care unit that they had been exposed to Covid, either from a colleague or a patient. Nurses say this lack of clear information on exposure can contribute to the spread of Covid.

"When we lost Janine, a colleague from our sister campus at Summit, it really drove home the urgency that our employer take all the necessary steps to protect the health, welfare, and lives of our nursing staff and their families,” said Betty Enright, CCRN, who works in the intensive care unit at Alta Bates Ashby Campus. “RNs spoke up again and again for optimal protections, and when Sutter failed to act, we are proud to have raised our collective voice to CAL/OSHA, where we were finally heard. It’s time for Sutter to do its due diligence and take strong action to protect nurses so that we can protect our patients, our families, and the community.”

California Nurses Association/National Nurses United is the largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of registered nurses in the nation with 100,000 members in more than 200 facilities throughout California and more than 170,000 RNs nationwide.