Hackensack Meridian fined for COVID-19 mask violations at nursing home
Taken from NorthJersey.com
By Scott Fallon
September 10, 2020
A Hackensack Meridian nursing home was cited by federal regulators for failing to give its nursing staff the proper masks to treat COVID-19 residents near the height of the pandemic, according to documents released Thursday.
The violations occurred in late March at The Harborage, a 245-bed facility next to Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen where at least 25 residents died from coronavirus complications.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration fined the facility more than $28,000 for five violations outlined in a Sept. 4 letter made public Thursday by the Health Professionals & Allied Employees union.
“As a result of this callous conduct by Hackensack Meridian Health, health care workers, including HPAE members, were exposed to the virus, became infected and sickened by the virus,” said Barbara Rosen, the union’s first vice president.
Rosen said the violations were the first of their kind in the nation. An OSHA representative could not be reached for comment.
The Harborage is part of the Hackensack Meridian Health Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, N.J. on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. Tariq Zehawi/NorthJersey.com
OSHA said the five violations occurred on March 23 and 24. The most serious violations said the home required workers to use surgical masks to care for COVID-19 patients and did not provide more effective N95 masks or the equivalent. Workers were not trained on how to properly wear them or whether they fit correctly on their face.
Two union members who worked at the adjacent Palisades Medical Center died in the pandemic: Nancy Martell, a patient care technician, and Alfredo Pabatao, who transported patients, including those between The Harborage and the medical center.
Staff at The Harborage told NorthJersey.com in April that the facility had run out of N95 masks. They said they never received eye protection, which is necessary to prevent the virus from entering a person’s mucous membranes. The homes lacked supplies for “universal masking” of staff and residents, workers said, when it became a system-wide policy.