Kaiser hospital faces $43K fine as probe of outbreak continues

The County of Santa Clara has fined Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente's San Jose hospital $43,000 in response to an outbreak of COVID-19 cases among emergency department staff, according to a statement and notice shared with Becker's Hospital Review.  

County officials said they issued the fine Jan. 5 because the hospital failed to timely report 43 cases involving employees who tested positive between Dec. 27 and Jan. 1. 

"Kaiser Permanente failed to report any of these cases in the county's work site case and contact reporting portal as it is required to do by the  public health order issued on Oct. 5," according to the county's statement. "Kaiser also submitted a social-distancing protocol to the county on Oct. 19 certifying it would comply with all reporting requirements. The county was not informed of the cases until they were confirmed in a press statement issued by Kaiser Permanente on Jan. 3."

San Jose (Calif.) Medical Center was fined $1,000 for each violation, totaling $43,000.  

Kaiser first reported the outbreak earlier this month. Previously, the hospital reported that 44 emergency department staff members tested positive between Dec. 27 and Jan. 1, including one worker who died. As of Jan. 7, 60 staff members who worked in the emergency department on Dec. 25 have tested positive

The hospital has cited an air-powered holiday costume worn by a staff member as a potential cause of the outbreak. However, hospital and public health officials continue to investigate the cause or causes.

Regarding the Santa Clara County citation, the hospital defended its reporting practices.

"Throughout this challenging time, our commitment to the health and safety of our employees, physicians, members, patients, and communities is unwavering,"  Irene Chavez, senior vice president and area manager of Kaiser Permanente San Jose, said in a statement. "The suggestion that we are anything other than forthcoming with our reporting is inaccurate. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the dynamically evolving need for information, Kaiser Permanente has maintained consistent communications with multiple state and local agencies regarding COVID-19 cases at our facilities. Kaiser Permanente has demonstrated consistent diligence and a continued dedication to our community’s health and well-being."  

She said the hospital is reviewing the citation and will respond by the county’s deadline, which is Jan. 15.

Read additional coverage about the outbreak here

 

More articles on workforce:
38,800 healthcare jobs added in December; hospitals see job gains 
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27 employees, 6 patients infected in COVID-19 outbreak at Ohio hospital

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