• Cal/OSHA cites Oakland hospital over meningitis case Tuesday, April 20, 2010

    This may be a bit philosophical for the first thing in the morning, but what good is a safety-preserving regulation if it’s not followed?

    Cal/OSHA nailed an Oakland hospital on Monday with more than $100,000 in citations over its alleged failure to follow California’s tough Aerosol Transmittable Disease (ATD) standard, aimed at protecting health care workers and others from exposure to airborne diseases. (Hat tip to Fair Warning for the link).

    Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland was cited for ten violations over its handling of a patient in December with potentially fatal bacterial meningitis, who spread the infection to a hospital worker and a police officer, both of whom were hospitalized, but survived.

    “Protection of medical facility staff and first responders is critical in the process of assisting the public in need of the life-saving services they offer,” said John C. Duncan, director of Cal/OSHA’s Department of Industrial Relations. “We cannot allow the spread of diseases caused by airborne aerosols in these critical professions when preventive measures are readily available, and have been required since August 2009.”

    Cal/OSHA said Alta Bates Summit Medical Center was cited for not using a control program, not properly informing employees of what to do after exposure, not “fit testing” employees with respirators and not providing medical treatment to the exposed employee. The agency also hit the hospital with two “willful” citations — meaning investigators believe the hospital intentionally ignored the regulations — for not reporting the meningitis case to health officials “in a timely manner,” and for not properly conducting an exposure analysis after the incident.

    Cal/OSHA also cited the Oakland Police Department $31,520 for nine related violations in the hospitalization of the police officer, and cited the Oakland Fire Department $2,710. None of the responding firefighters appeared to have been infected. The agency is still investigating the American Medical Response, whose workers also handled the patient.

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