Minnesota's OSHA fines 2 hospitals over COVID-19 safety

The Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration has penalized North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale and United Hospital in St. Paul after complaints from workers alleging insufficient COVID-19 protections, the Star Tribune reported. 

Inspectors fined the hospitals $2,100 each.

North Memorial Health Hospital was cited for failing to adequately train imaging department staff on how to use powered air-purifying respirators and failing to provide the right medical evaluation for workers to use those respirators, according to the Tribune. United Hospital, part of Minneapolis-based Allina Health, was also fined for failing to train workers on how to use powered air-purifying respirators as well as for complaints that employees restapled broken elastic straps of their N95 respirators early in the pandemic.

At North Memorial Health Hospital, the initial penalty was reduced to $1,470 through a settlement reached earlier this month allowing 30 days for the hospital to show it made corrections, according to state records cited by the Tribune

"Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have implemented many operational changes, trained personnel to use additional and different PPE and supported our teams as they have provided exceptional care to our patients," Jeff Wicklander, president of North Memorial Health Hospital, said in a statement provided to Becker's Hospital Review.

"The OSHA investigation into the use of PAPRs by our imaging personnel found one area where we could have done more to prepare our teams. We have addressed the opportunities they identified through additional education for imaging team members and are in the process of providing this expanded training to all team members at North Memorial Health Hospital," said Mr. Wicklander.

The Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration did not cite North Memorial Health Hospital for complaints from nurses in the spring regarding mandated reuse of isolation gowns, finding that the changes aligned with CDC guidelines. The hospital said it made changes regarding PPE reuse and conservation and stopped the previously needed isolation gown reuse practices in mid-June as supply chain reliability and sourcing options improved for isolation gowns.

United Hospital is appealing its Aug. 11 citation regarding restapling of broken elastic straps of workers' N95 respirators, according to the Tribune.

In a statement to the newspaper, Allina said it did not tell workers to restaple broken straps and that employees are instructed not to use broken or altered respirators. 

Emergency Department nurse Brittany Livaccari, co-chair of the Minnesota Nurses Association unit at United Hospital, disputes that assertion in the Tribune, saying workers indicated they were instructed to restaple broken straps.

Allina said the health system continues to adhere to the latest state and CDC guidance. 

Read the full Tribune report here


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