Arbitrator orders NJ hospital to pay aggrieved nurse's medical bills after patient attack

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An arbitrator has ordered Paramus, N.J.-based Bergen Regional Medical Center to compensate a nurse after she was assaulted by a patient and accused the hospital of violating safety rules, according to a report on NJ.com.

The arbitrator ruling, which included necessary medical and other expenses not covered by workers' compensation and back pay, came as a result of a grievance filed by the Health Professionals and Allied Employees, the union said in a news release. The union, which represents hospital employees, announced the decision Nov. 4.

The union said the arbitrator's award also affirmed HPAE's claim that BRMC failed to implement workplace violence prevention measures based upon New Jersey state law and recommendations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. "It was incumbent upon the hospital to address the known risks of violence … but there was no evidence presented that it did…," arbitrator Lisa C. Charles wrote in the final decision, according to the union.

The incident at issue involved Sandra Giancarlo. Ms. Giancarlo has worked as a nurse at BRMC for more than a decade and reported that she was attacked in January 2015 by a patient, according to the NJ.com article, which cites arbitration documents.

The patient, who was reportedly physically larger than Ms. Giancarlo, scratched her face, ripped her hair out, and caused injuries to her knee and back, according to the report. The injuries required surgery. Afterward, Ms. Giancarlo took medication to deal with the physical pain and underwent sessions with a psychiatrist to quell her mental distress.

In a statement cited in the report, BRMC spokeswoman Donalee Corrieri said: "BRMC has and will be supportive of Ms. Giancarlo in the aftermath of her ordeal. The breadth of that support extends well beyond, and is irrespective of, the full compensation and expense coverage addressed within the award."

The hospital, which oversees long-term behavioral health and acute term care, also is contesting citations issued by OSHA for instances of workplace violence and argued that the arbitrator, "unfortunately predicated her determinations on allegations from OSHA," Ms. Corrieri said, according to the report.

Meanwhile, state officials have extended the deadline to submit a prospective contract to the Bergen County Improvement Authority, which owns BRMC, to operate the hospital. The 19-year contract between county officials and the current hospital operator expires in March 2017.

 

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