Union accuses California hospital of failing to test potentially exposed workers


A union representing about 480 workers at Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa, Calif., is accusing the hospital of declining to test employees potentially exposed to COVID-19 and ignoring several state health and safety standards, according to TV station KPIX.

The National Union of Healthcare Workers alleges in a news release that Queen of the Valley  failed to test more then 24 employees who cared for a patient who was hospitalized June 8 and later tested positive for COVID-19.

Union officials said workers also report that patients who tested negative for COVID-19 are being placed in the same room as  patients who have not received test results, and confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients are not being placed in negative-pressure rooms to limit the spread of the illness. The union also alleges the hospital is not mandating masks for patients when a worker or another patient is in the same room. 

"We're concerned that the Queen of the Valley isn't taking the threat of COVID-19 seriously enough," Ray Herrera, an X-ray technician at the hospital, said in a news release. "We're seeing a rise in coronavirus cases, but it seems that infection controls are becoming more lax."

The hospital disputes the union's allegations. 

Hospital spokesperson Christina Harris said Queen of the Valley has a "strict, multilayer process" to ensure safety of workers and patients, and it follows current protocols recommended by the CDC and state, which include wearing proper personal protective equipment.

"If a potential exposure occurs due to the fact a patient was not known to be COVID-19 positive or a person is under investigation at the time of care, infection prevention and caregiver health teams work together to conduct contact-tracing, assess if there was close contact without PPE and if there may have been high-risk or low-risk exposure to a caregiver," Ms. Harris said in a hospital statement. "As a result of this process, it was determined that seven caregivers were at a high risk for exposure to a patient recently. In consultation with Napa County Public Health and in line with CDC recommendations, these high-risk caregivers were tested for COVID-19 at Queen of the Valley and given administrative leave pending test results." 

To conserve limited testing supplies, remaining workers who were not determined to be at a high risk for exposure were referred to Napa County Public Health for testing, she said. Those workers will not receive paid time off unless they test positive for COVID-19.

Citing confidentiality and privacy laws, Queen of the Valley did not disclose information about the patient.



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