Violence reportedly continues at Bergen Regional Medical Center after OSHA sanction

More workers at Bergen Regional Medical Center in Paramus, N.J., were allegedly assaulted by patients after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the hospital last year for failing to keep the workplace free of hazards, and for incorrectly recording workplace injuries.

Following a worker's complaint last August, federal officials said at least eight employees were victims of violent patients during from Feb. 22, 2015, through June 12, 2015. Bergen Regional Medical Center is currently challenging the OSHA citation.

Now, it appears more assaults were reported in recent months at BRMC, which treats some of the most vulnerable patients — people debilitated by depression or dementia or battling a life-threatening addiction to heroin or prescription pain medication, according to The Record. The publication reports that in one three-hour span last December, law enforcement recorded four assaults that left two patients bleeding, an aide requiring X-rays and two guards with bite marks on their arms.

The cases are highlighted as the future of the hospital is unclear. Bergen Regional, the largest hospital and licensed nursing home in New Jersey, is owned by Bergen County and leased to a private operator, Bergen Regional Medical Center LP. The lease runs out in 2017. Bergen County officials have not yet made a final determination on what to do with the hospital once the lease expires.

But experts argue a change needs to occur, according to the report.

"The number and frequency of the patient care issues surrounding Bergen Regional Medical Center reflects serious leadership and management challenges," Kevin Huckshorn, a national expert in mental health and substance abuse treatment and a consultant for the New Jersey Department of Human Services, told The Record. "If a hospital itself is unable to effectively address these kinds of issues in a timely and adequate manner, the other responsible party is the one holding the contract for these services," she added. "In this case, that appears to be Bergen County."

Officials at Bergen Regional Medical Center LP declined to comment to The Record on the law enforcement records and said they had not seen them. In an interview with the publication, they also pointed out attacks on staff have dropped more than 30 percent over three recent quarters — from 4.5 per 1,000 patient days in the third quarter of 2015 to 1.4 in the first quarter of 2016 — and injuries to staff are below national benchmarks. They did not provide The Record with numbers for total assaults during that period.

"We are in this hospital caring for people who are at the extreme range of inability to control their behavior," Gabe Kaplan, MD, medical director of behavioral health at Bergen Regional Medical Center, told The Record. "Despite that, our rate of workplace violence is lower than the average."

Bergen Regional Medical Center LP is interested in renewing the contract to operate the hospital, Donnalee Corrieri, vice president of marketing and strategic development, told The Record.

According to NJ Advance Media, a 13-member committee was appointed to recommend what to do with the hospital once the lease expires. The committee findings, released earlier this month, called for the county to continue maintaining ownership, but said services should be expanded and contracts should provide more transparency in finances and operations, according to The Record.

 

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