State cites and fines St. Joseph Medical Center Tacoma for serious safety violations

Five “serious” violations and $14,400 fine follows patient attacks on nurses #

Flyer serious violations

The state Depart­ment of Labor and Indus­tries on April 11 cited and fined St. Joseph Medical Center Tacoma for safety viola­tions related to a series of attacks on nurses at the hospital. L&I’s Division of Occupa­tional Safety and Health launched an inves­ti­ga­tion at the request of WSNA after a patient in the psychi­atric unit assaulted numerous nurses in October 2018. The patient threat­ened to kill, punched, kicked and scratched staff members, inflicting serious injuries.

It is my sincere hope that St. Joe’s will better protect employees as a result of these citations,” said Tami Green, RN, who was punched in the eye and kicked in the mouth by the patient. I have decades of experi­ence working with psychi­atric patients and have never been injured, physi­cally and emotion­ally, like I was in this instance.”

WSNA complained to the state that St. Joe’s had failed to furnish its employees a place of employ­ment free from recog­nized hazards, had failed to provide adequate training, and failed to conduct a safety committee in accor­dance with state law.

The Division of Safety and Health cited the hospital for failing to conduct an effec­tive, inclu­sive incident inves­ti­ga­tion into the assaults. Additional viola­tions addressed the safety committee, which DOSH found did not effec­tively address safety topics and did not include the required number of employee representatives.

These viola­tions and assaults at the hospital add up to a place where nurses don’t feel safe,” said Sally Watkins, Execu­tive Director of WSNA. That is not okay. Violence against nurses and other hospital employees is on the rise, and it is imper­a­tive that we act to better prevent assaults, better train our front­line caregivers to protect themselves and better respond to incidents when they do occur.”

Recent incidents of violence against nurses repre­sented by WSNA include two assaults at Kadlec Medical Center in Richland last September. In one case a nurse was stran­gled by an ICU patient; in another an emergency room nurse was punched, scratched and thrown against the wall by a patient, resulting in serious injuries to the nurse and co-workers who tried to pull the patient off her. Charges were brought against the patients in both cases, and the emergency room patient has been found guilty of assault. The other case is pending.

WSNA worked in coali­tion with other unions in this legisla­tive session to strengthen Washington’s workplace violence in health care statute to include greater speci­ficity regarding require­ments for workplace violence preven­tion plans and increased workplace violence training. SHB 1931 passed both houses of the Legis­la­ture and is on its way to the Governor’s desk.

Violence against nurses is a growing problem, and we have to address it through multiple avenues, including legis­la­tion, regula­tory agencies and at the bargaining table,” said Watkins. The likeli­hood of health care workers being exposed to violence is higher than prison guards or police officers. That has to end.”