SAN LEANDRO, Calif. - A review of state workplace records shows that Kaiser Permanente hospitals comprise 10% of all the Cal-OSHA coronavirus violations throughout California and that its San Leandro location was hit with hefty fines just last week, a KTVU analysis found.
Since the outbreak in mid-March, Cal-OSHA has fined 110 businesses for COVID violations. Kaiser comprises 11 of those businesses for a total of 47 violations; 25 of them serious.
Penalty-wise, Kaiser's citations totaled $454,420 out of a grand sum of $2.3 million since mid-March.
A review of records shows that Kaiser Permanente hospitals in San Jose, Antioch, Santa Rosa, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Oakland, Redwood City and locations in Southern California, have all been cited, too.
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Among the newest Kaiser violations: Cal-OSHA fined Kaiser San Leandro $87,500 on Jan. 4.
State investigators found that the staff at Kaiser San Leandro failed to fill out the proper forms for work-related illnesses; maintain an effective respiratory protection program; and notify employees who had "significant exposures" to COVID-19 cases from May through August.
Cal-OSHA also found that Kaiser San Leandro didn't provide the required training to employees to aerosol transmissible pathogens and didn't immediately report the serious illness suffered by an employee who was hospitalized with COVID-19. Cal-OSHA noted this was a repeat violation.
In addition, Cal-OSHA said the San Leandro Kaiser did not provide employees with post-exposure medical services.
In response to KTVU questions on Thursday, Kaiser said it is appealing every citation and "as such, they should not be considered final determinations."
To be fair, Kaiser is one of the largest nonprofit healthcare plans in the United States, but it has also has faced a large number of penalties by Cal-OSHA, the state agency tasked with workplace safety.
Kaiser noted its size likely has to do with the number of citations it is facing.
"Not only does Kaiser Permanente have a significant number of large hospitals in California," according to an earlier statement, "we were also among the first to treat patients with COVID-19 – something that we are extremely proud of, but which also provided high visibility for these efforts."
Kaiser said that the citations mainly stem from allegations early in the pandemic, "as health care systems including ours grappled with national shortages and evolving public health guidance."
In a number of cases, Kaiser said these complaints do not align with Cal/OSHA, CDC, or other state or local public health guidelines in place at the time.
"From the very beginning of the pandemic, our people have been doing everything possible to make sure Kaiser Permanente facilities remain safe places to work and receive high-quality care," Kaiser said.
Kaiser also noted that early in the pandemic some advocacy groups undertook efforts to file Cal-OSHA complaints as part of their campaign to advocate for change in the then-current regulatory guidance.
"We understand that, but it doesn’t take away from the great work that has been done to care for our patients, keep our staff safe, and comply with federal, state and local public health guidance under precedented circumstances," Kaiser said.
Kaiser is often credited for its strong emphasis on preventive care and holistic approach to medicine.
But at the same time, Kaiser has had disputes with its employees' unions, and it has repeatedly faced civil and criminal charges for falsification of records and patient dumping and forced to defend its actions by regulators over the quality of care it provided, especially to patients with mental health issues.
Even though the San Leandro citation is the most recent Kaiser cited by Cal-OSHA, the most highly publicized coronavirus-related case, however, has been at Kaiser in San Jose.
That's where a well-intentioned employee, who unwittingly had coronavirus, dressed up as an inflatable tree on Christmas Day and possibly caused a super spreader event.
As of this week, nearly 100 employees and patients have officially tested positive from that day, and one staff member at Kaiser has died, according to the Santa Clara County Public Health Department.
The number of positive cases is even likely higher than that, as some patients in the ER that day have called into KTVU to report that not only they tested positive but their family members have, too. The Santa Clara County Public Health Department has not provided a number of how big the super spreader event was through its contract tracing.
State and county investigators are now trying to pinpoint the source of that outbreak. Santa Clara County is fining Kaiser San Jose $43,000 for failing to report the outbreak in a timely manner to the department of health.
But a month before Christmas Day, Cal-OSHA fined that same San Jose Kaiser $87,350 for violations stemming from soon after the outbreak, including failing to report cases in a timely fashion and not providing the proper equipment to employees.
Kaiser also failed to tell patients about the outbreak, according to several who contacted KTVU, despite public assurances from the hospital that it had.
For instance, Jori Buriani told KTVU that while she was in the ER on Christmas Day to be treated for a dislocated shoulder, Kaiser never notified her about the outbreak. She and her husband have since tested positive for the virus.
"Yeah, I’m furious that I had to learn of my exposure by watching the news," Buriani told KTVU in an interview over the weekend. "Don’t say you did something that you didn’t do to cover your ass."
Here is the list of Cal-OSHA's citations levied against Kaiser in California in regards to coronavirus and workplace safety:
- Kaiser San Leandro $87,500
- Kaiser San Jose $87,375
- Kaiser Oakland $78,300
- Kaiser Antioch $56,000
- Kaiser Santa Rosa $55,350
- Kaiser Redwood City $39,685
- Kaiser Ontario $18,075
- Kaiser San Francisco $16,400
- Kaiser Santa Clara $11,200
- Kaiser Lancaster $5,000
- Kaiser Zion in San Diego $1,535