New Jersey nursing home faces $28K in fines over inadequate PPE supply

Federal regulators have proposed more than $28,000 in penalties for a New Jersey nursing home that allegedly failed to provide adequate personal protective equipment to employees during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, NJ.com reported. 

In a Sept. 4 letter, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration deemed the allegations against The Harborage as "serious" and said the issues were primarily related to the availability and use of respirator masks. The nursing home, based in North Bergen, is operated by Hackensack (N.J.) Meridian Health. 

Hackensack Meridian says they will refute OSHA's conclusions. 

"This is an open investigation and we are challenging several of the OSHA findings. We vehemently oppose the union’s characterization of our approach to team member safety as 'abhorrent' or 'callous.' We believe that the safety standards that we had to adopt in this unprecedented global pandemic absolutely protected our team members," Daniel Varga, MD, the health system's chief physician executive, said in a statement shared with Becker's.

Leaders from the Healthcare Professionals and Allied Employees, a healthcare workers union, said OSHA's investigation confirmed reports it received from healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 outbreak, NJ.com reported. 

"As a result of this callous conduct by Hackensack Meridian Health, healthcare workers, including HPAE members, were exposed to the virus, became infected and sickened by the virus," Barbara Rosen, the union's first vice president, told NJ.com.

The union filed a complaint in April on behalf of the workers at The Harborage. The complaint said the nursing home put employees at risk and that its failure to provide PPE contributed to the March 26 death of Alfredo Pabatao, a medical transporter at Palisades Medical Center, which is adjacent to the nursing home. 

The citations in OSHA's letter include a failure to provide N95 respirator masks to nurses treating COVID-19 patients or those suspected to be infected, failure to provide fit testing when different mask models were used, and a failure to provide "effective training" of proper use of the masks, NJ.com reported. 

Hackensack Meridian has 15 days to respond to OSHA's report, according to NJ.com. 

Read the full article here.

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