Sutter hospital fined $155K over infection control violations after nurse's death

California health officials have fined Oakland, Calif.-based Alta Bates Summit Medical Center $155,250 over workplace infection control standards, the California Nurses Association said March 19. 

The state's division of occupational safety and health investigated the medical center, part of the Sutter Health network, after hospital nurse Janine Paiste-Ponder, RN, died of COVID-19 last July. 

"We know that Janine became ill when she ran after two Covid positive patients who were in the hallways because she feared that they would infect other patients or staff," said Paula Lyn, RN, a nurse at Alta Bates Summit and a board member of the California Nurses Association, which represents nurses at the hospital. "Because the hospital had locked up N95 respirators, and Janine was wearing only a surgical mask as per hospital policy, she was exposed and became ill."

The state's OSHA division issued eight citations to Alta Bates Summit for violating numerous state infectious disease control standards. The citations included failure to ensure COVID-19 patients were properly isolated, failure to provide N95 masks to nurses who worked on Ms. Paiste-Ponder's unit and improperly requiring nurses to reuse N95 masks. 

Sacramento, Calif.-based Sutter Health said it disagrees with the state's findings and immediately appealed the citations.

"None of the findings are specific to the passing of our beloved colleague," a spokesperson for the system told Becker's. "We continue to mourn her loss and are disappointed that her memory is being used for political gain."


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