Medical facility cited for failing to treat COVID-19 as airborne

Health care facilities have a responsibility to do everything in their power to protect building inhabitants and staff from infectious diseases. Kaiser Permanente psychiatric facility in Santa Clara, California has been fined US$11,200 by California’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) officials for failing to treat COVID-19 as airborne, CalMatters reports.

The medical facility is among numerous employers that have recently been cited by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for coronavirus related violations.

Even after studies showed coronavirus could survive in the air, Kaiser failed to comply with California health and safety standards for aerosol transmissible diseases (ATD), according to CalMatters. In May, California had instructed employers to assume airborne transmission was true and most hospitals complied. Recently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidelines stating COVID-19 transmission is airborne.

The citation against Kaiser is for not providing healthcare workers with N95 masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE). In addition, the citation identified other ATD protocol violations including allowing symptomatic and asymptomatic employees to work with other employees and not quickly notifying employees of coronavirus exposures.

The $11,200 citation included:

  • $9,000 for failure to effectively establish and implement an ATD plan in the behavioral health unit
  • $600 for employer failure to ensure employees exposed to COVID-19 had well-fitted masks
  • $600 for failure to address worker-to-worker exposure
  • $400 for failure to include all nursing staff in training records
  • $600 for failure to notify employees of the date and time of potential exposures to COVID-19.

Paul Thottingal MD, a national infectious disease leader at Kaiser, told CalMatters the health system “is in line with CDC guidance, recommendations by the World Health Organization, and Cal/OSHA, and is consistent with the practices of other health care providers in California and around the country.”

A Kaiser spokesperson told CalMatters the company will appeal the citation.

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