Taken from NJ.com
May 14, 2020
Health care workers at a New Jersey hospital fear for their safety, alleging the facility has failed to protect them from infection while treating COVID-19 patients.
A federal agency is investigating a series of complaints alleging hazardous workplace conditions at Jersey Shore University Medical Center after workers say the hospital is putting them at unnecessary risk.
The complaints, filed with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, allege the medical center has failed to provide sufficient personal protective equipment, like respirators, gloves and gowns, as well as other unsafe practices, according to a May 8 letter from OSHA to the hospital that was obtained by NJ Advance Media.
It’s the latest controversy to hit the Neptune facility. Last month, it faced considerable backlash from a nurses union after it fired a nurse and union leader while a crush of coronavirus patients continued to swarm medical facilities statewide.
Health Professionals and Allied Employees — the union that represents 14,000 health care workers in the state, including those at Jersey Shore University Medical Center — commended OSHA for “listening to our members’ concerns and taking strong action by sending such a reinforcing letter to this employer.”
“They need to be provided with the resources they need to care for COVID-19 patients safely, including adequate amounts of PPE,” HPAE President Debbie White said in a statement.
”We also hope the employer will respond in writing about steps they are taking to deal with the concerns our members have raised in these OSHA complaints,” she added.
Jersey Shore University Medical Center maintained that “the safety and well-being of our team members and patients has always been and will continue to be our primary concern.”
“We have policies and procedures in place to protect our team members and patients that are all in accordance with CDC guidelines,” Dr. Kenneth N. Sable, regional president of Hackensack Meridian Health, which owns and operates the hospital, said in a statement.
“The current global health care crisis does not negate their importance,” he added. “We will continue to provide a safe work environment for our team members, so they can provide the best possible care for our patients and the communities we serve.”
The OSHA letter said the agency was conducting an inspection of the hospital as a result of the allegations.
The complaints include that the hospital no longer requires “fit tests” for N-95 masks — the testing of the seal that secures to a worker’s face, preventing exposure to particles. “Requests to be fit tested,” according to OSHA’s letter, “are declined by management without exceptions.”