The Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA) is reporting that on Jan. 29, 2010, Sacred Heart Medical Center was cited and fined $8,000 for failing to adhere to state and national H1N1 influenza safety standards.
The Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) issued the citation and fine for violation of Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines on H1N1 and also for violation of the DOSH Directive on Enforcement Procedures for High or Very High Occupational Exposure Risk to the 2009 H1N1 Influenza.
L&I found the hospital to be in violation in eight specific instances and issued a fine for each violation, totaling $8,000 in fines. The findings were in response to a complaint filed in October of 2009 by the WSNA against Sacred Heart and its infection control policies regarding the use of N-95 respirators in treating suspected or diagnosed H1N1 patients. The N-95 respirators are recommended by the CDC for use when healthcare personnel are within six feet of suspected or confirmed H1N1 patients. Sacred Heart nurses were reporting difficulty accessing properly fit-tested N-95 masks in these circumstances.
"As a registered nurse who did have to care for diagnosed and suspected patients without the CDC recommended N-95 respirators, I was placing my patients and myself in danger of exposure to H1N1. The citation by L&I is a major victory for patient and nurse safety," said Kristie Dimak, a registered nurse at Sacred Heart Medical Center.
"WSNA applauds L&I in holding Sacred Heart Medical Center accountable for not adhering to state and national H1N1 standards. I hope this citation serves as a wake-up call for all hospitals in Washington State to fully comply with flu prevention guidelines in order to ensure public and nurse safety," said Christine Himmelsbach, MN, RN, WSNA assistant executive director of labor relations.
Specific violations cited by L&I against Sacred Heart Medical Center include:
-- Inadequate written respiratory protection program
-- Not all employees who wear N-95 respirators have been fit-tested or trained on an annual basis
-- No provision for men with facial hair, which can interfere with the respirator seal of N-95 respirators
The hospital is required by law to post the citation on its health and safety bulletin board for three working days or until all violations are corrected, whichever time period is longer.