Union urges California hospital employees to vote no confidence in CEO

A union representing employees at a California hospital is calling for a vote of no confidence in the CEO amid a state investigation into allegations of unsafe working conditions and improper COVID-19 response, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The National Union of Healthcare Workers filed a complaint July 1 against Fountain Valley (Calif.) Regional Hospital and Medical Center, and the state is investigating.

In the complaint, filed with the California Department of Public Health, the union claims the hospital "has failed to develop and implement effective infection control procedures and practices in order to reduce the risk of the transmission of [SARS-CoV-2], the virus that causes the coronavirus disease COVID-19," according to the LA Times.

The union and its members allege the 293-bed facility is not sufficiently protecting patients and workers, particularly when it comes to COVID-19 testing and contact tracing following exposure incidents.

Employees told the LA Times during a demonstration Aug. 6 that the hospital won't conduct on-site testing for asymptomatic employees, even when they've had contact with patients and co-workers who later receive a positive COVID-19 test. Additionally, they allege patients are not tested on arrival if they are asymptomatic.

Now, the union is asking employees for a no-confidence vote in Fountain Valley CEO Kenneth McFarland.

In response, Fountain Valley's parent company, Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, issued a statement Aug. 7 defending Mr. McFarland and the hosiptal's practices amid the pandemic.

The hospital's focus is on providing quality patient care, and its practices follow state and CDC guidelines, Tenet spokesperson Jessica Chen said in the statement.

Each patient is screened for fever and other signs and symptoms of COVID-19 upon arrival at the hospital, she added, and employees complete a COVID-19-related screening questionnaire daily as well as recieve regular temperature checks.

As far as testing of patients, Ms. Chen said it is "provided based on symptoms and physician order," and "if an employee requires testing, we send them to an appropriate testing site within the community as Fountain Valley Regional Hospital is not a COVID-19 testing center." Additionally, she said, there is adequate personal protective equipment to safely care for patients and staff, and appropriate safety protcols in place regarding these supplies.

"While we value all of our employees who are represented by the NUHW, we are disappointed that the union is taking this action," said Ms. Chen. "Our CEO, Kenn McFarland is a respected hospital executive with a long history of service to Orange County. His record speaks for itself."

"Our hospital has been at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in Orange County and we take immense pride in the extraordinary professionalism and dedication our physicians, nurses and other staff have demonstrated every day in caring for our COVID-19 patients," she added.

Read the full report here.


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