COVID-19 death of nurse leads to fines at Summit Hospital in Oakland

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Sutter Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland will face fines after an investigation into the death of a nurse last July, according to the California Nurses Association.

CNA is the nursing union that represented Janine Paiste-Ponder, a registered nurse at the hospital who died in July of 2020 from COVID-19.

"Janine and many other nurses were calling on the hospital to address their many infection control concerns but their pleas for safety went unanswered when Janine ended up being exposed," said Mike Hill, RN and a former co-worker of Janine.

Like many medical facilities across the country, Hill said the hospital faced a constant shortage of personal protective equipment.

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While nurses were given N95 masks when attending directly to COVID-19 patients in their rooms, he said patients would often roam the halls.

"In Janine's case, at that time you weren't allowed to wear a mask in the hallway, only in the patient's room. But the patient kept running out of the room so nurses kept getting exposed out in the hallways," explained Hill.

"We know that Janine became ill when she ran after two COVID positive patients who were in the hallways because she feared that they would infect other patients or staff," added Paula Lyn, a longtime Summit RN and board member of the CNA. "Because the hospital had locked up N95 respirators, and Janine was wearing only a surgical mask as per hospital policy, she was exposed and became ill."

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Paiste-Ponder's death sparked an investigation by Cal/OSHA. According to information obtained by CNA, the hospital will face a $155,250 fine for eight different violations including failing to properly and securely isolate COVID-19 patients, failure to provide N95 respirators to the nurses who worked on Paiste-Ponder's unit, requiring nurses to reuse N95 masks, failure to establish and implement an Aerosol Transmissible Disease Exposure control plan, failure to notify nurses of exposure to Covid-19 in a timely manner, failure to provide testing for asymptomatic exposed nurses and requiring them to continue working and failure to put all Covid-19 positive patients in airborne infection isolation rooms.

ABC7 has reached out to Sutter Health about the Cal/OSHA citations but has not received a response.


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