State regulators have fined Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland $142,970 for not properly isolating nearly two dozen patients suspected of having tuberculosis.
The hospital failed to put the patients in appropriately ventilated rooms to prevent the disease from spreading to other patients and hospital employees, Cal-OSHA said.
As it turned out, none of these patients tested positive for tuberculosis during the period from Nov. 15 to Jan. 15, so no one was infected, said Mike Hill, a registered nurse at the hospital who was among a group of employees that Cal-OSHA briefed on its findings.
But that did not appease Hill and other members of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, who are in the midst of a seven-day strike against Alta Bates Summit and other Sutter Health-affiliated hospitals in the East Bay.
"The hospital knew for over a year and a half that the one negative pressure room (in the intensive care unit) did not adequately protect us, patients or anyone walking by," Hill said.
A negative pressure room has a ventilation system that sucks air out of the room to prevent it from spilling into hallways and other areas of the hospital. Cal-OSHA said the system wasn't working properly.
The hospital plans to appeal the citations, two of which were labeled willful and serious, spokeswoman Stacey Wells said. She noted that the hospital has a team of infection control and other experts who work to ensure a safe environment.
"We are also reviewing our policies and procedures -- as we regularly do -- to ensure we always implement best practices and procedures that maintain and ensure the safety and health of our staff and patients," Wells said.
Cal-OSHA also faulted the hospital for not ensuring that employees use a respirator when they perform certain procedures on patients suspected of having an infectious disease such as tuberculosis.
Sandy Kleffman covers health. Contact her at 510-293-2478. Follow her at Twitter.com/skleffman.