Weeks before the Christmas break, Emperor San Jose fined $ 85,000 for violations – Times-Herald

SAN JOSE – A month before Kaiser Permanente came under fire for not reporting a fatal coronavirus outbreak at its San Jose medical center on Christmas Day, the healthcare giant was fined more than $ 85,000, in part for being silent was when one of his employees was hospitalized for a week with COVID-19 early in the pandemic.

And while the outbreak spread to the San Jose emergency room in late December, Kaiser’s sister hospital in Antioch was fined $ 56,000 on December 28 for repeatedly failing to report employees infected with the virus .

Kaiser denied the allegations on Monday, saying it was appealing.

Kaiser’s San Jose facility has been under scrutiny since a press release was posted on Jan. 3 that found 44 emergency room workers tested positive for coronavirus and one worker died. It suggested that a well-meaning employee in an air-powered inflatable tree costume might have been a super spreader on Christmas morning – a possibility that is still being investigated. The number of sick employees has since grown to at least 60.

Santa Clara County officials said the press release was the first the health department heard of the outbreak and hit the hospital last week with a $ 43,000 fine, $ 1,000 for each original case it failed immediately reported.

A photo obtained from NBC Bay Area shows the inflatable Christmas tree costume worn by an emergency room worker at Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center on Christmas Day. (Courtesy NBC Bay Area)

The charges, which resulted in a string of fines against the hospital network, infuriated Jori Buriani, a dental assistant who says she was an emergency patient at Emperor San Jose on Christmas morning and, like other patients, was never informed of the exposure. She says she never saw the tree and was released shortly before 9 a.m., around the time the woman in the tree costume showed up. Still, she said, last week – about 11 days after Christmas – she tested positive for coronavirus, as did her husband.

“It makes me sick. I’ve had Kaiser all my life and I’ve defended her against anyone who talked to her about rubbish,” said Buriani, 53. “And now that all these violations are coming out, it’s a mystery to me. “

In a statement on Monday, the hospital network stressed that the state penalties at the San Jose hospital were due to claims made last spring when the virus was new and regulations were constantly evolving.

“The important thing is that they have absolutely nothing to do with what might have happened at Kaiser Permanente San Jose on December 25,” Kaiser said.

Still, Cal / OSHA, the state agency that oversees workplace safety and fined Emperor San Jose $ 85,000, said Monday that it is also investigating “subsequent illnesses and ailments” at the South San Jose hospital.

In an interview last week, Santa Clara County executive Jeff Smith said Kaiser had an explanation for not reporting the cases immediately: “From their point of view, you got it wrong.”

Kaiser didn’t explain why he didn’t notify the county’s health officials when the staff got sick – as early as December 27th. He did, however, address some of the other allegations that led to the state’s fine on Nov. 23, including the fact that Kaiser did not provide respirators to employees performing “life-saving procedures on those infected with COVID-19 and exposure incidents do not examine “.

In his statement on Monday, Kaiser suggested that some of the complaints dating back to March and May came from working groups advocating change.

The rules for protective equipment last spring “developed when we were grappling with national bottlenecks,” the statement said. “Cal / OSHA and the public health guidelines have also evolved.”

Kaiser also said it was “extremely proud” that his hospitals were among the first to treat COVID-19 patients but “had high visibility for those efforts.”

Over the past 10 months, Cal / OSHA has cited numerous jobs, from hospitals to farms, for coronavirus violations, including many classified as “serious”.

Speaking to the Emperor in Antioch, Cal / OSHA said it fined $ 56,000 after the hospital failed to immediately report that two employees were hospitalized with coronavirus in May and July for violations of a safe work environment, among other things amid the pandemic.

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