OSHA fines 14 NJ hospitals, nursing homes for lack of PPE and other failures during COVID - Health Professionals & Allied Employees

OSHA fines 14 NJ hospitals, nursing homes for lack of PPE and other failures during COVID

Taken from NorthJersey.com

By Lindy Washburn

October 5, 2020

Fourteen health care institutions in New Jersey, including hospitals, nursing homes and an ambulance company, have been cited by the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration for failing to provide enough equipment and other protections to health care workers who fell sick and died during the pandemic.

More facilities in New Jersey were cited in the OSHA violations announced Monday than in any other state. The fines totaled $252,150.

They included $46,266 for Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville, where Barbara Birchenough, 65, a nurse from Midland Park, died in April after contracting the coronavirus just days before she was to retire. A nurse’s aide who worked with her, Nestor Bautista, 62, also contracted the virus and died.

Her son Matthew Birchenough, reached Monday, said the discipline by the federal Department of Labor was small comfort compared with the suffering and death endured by many.

“It’s nice to see some accountability,” he said. “But it’s really a pittance compared to my mother’s life, her co-worker’s life, and everything her co-workers went through taking care of her and other patients.”

Lack of personal protective equipment, or PPE — including gowns, face masks, face shields and gloves — as the pandemic roared into North Jersey in March and April was a constant source of worry and alarm among health care workers at hospitals, nursing homes and doctors’ offices. Some hospital nurses wore garbage bags when gowns ran out. They reused face masks for days or a week, when a change of PPE was recommended for each patient.

As they worked without protection to care for patients, hundreds of health care workers in New Jersey fell sick. More than 100 have died, based on obituaries and other records.

The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, where Emergency Department nurse Pamela Orlando died, was fined $8,675 by OSHA. The Waldwick office of the Valley Physicians Group, a medical practice associated with Valley Health, was fined $9,639. Jessie Ferreras, a primary care doctor in the Waldwick practice, died April 3.

Two Hackensack Meridian Health hospitals and one of its nursing homes were fined a combined $77,110. Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen — where Nancy Martell, 58, a patient care technician in the Emergency Department, and Alfredo Pabatao, 68, an orderly, died — was fined $38,555. JFK Medical Center in Edison was fined $25,061, and Meridian Subacute Rehabilitation, a long-term-care facility in Wall, was fined $13,494.

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