Hospital fined $100,000 for infection control lapses related to meningitis patient

An Oakland, Calif.-based hospital has been hit with a $101,000 fine by the state's OSHA regulators for failing to implement safety precautions before and after treating a patient diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. Alta Bates Summit Medical Center committed 10 safety violations with regard to limiting and reporting the exposure of employees who treated the patient. One employee, a respiratory therapist, was ultimately hospitalized as a result, according to Len Welsh, the state's OSHA chief.

In particular, Alta Bates failed to provide post-exposure information to employees, neglected to test employees for respirators and didn't offer medical treatment to its lone exposed employee. Alta Bates also failed to report the meningitis to local health authorities in a timely manner, Welsh said.

"This is a textbook case of why the ATD Standard was developed and why it is so important that it be implemented," Welsh said. "This case is also a 'wake-up call' for other medical facilities and first responders to make sure their ATD program, procedures and employee training meet the requirement of the standard." 

The employee, who was stricken with the illness, was treated in the intensive care unit at John Muir Medical Center. He stayed in the hospital for 11 days. 

Oakland's police and fire departments also were charged with multiple violations and received fines of $31,000 in fines and $2,700, respectively. A police officer also ended up being hospitalized as a result. 

The police department's violations included "failure to develop and implement the required [Aerosol Transmittable Disease] standard, failure to properly notify" the fire department and the American Medical Response team, and failure to report the officer's hospitalization--which lasted five days--to Cal/OSHA. The fire department's violations also included not implementing the ATD standard and not notifying other fire fighters and American Medical Response workers of the exposure.

To learn more:
- read this press release from Cal/OSHA
- check out this San Francisco Chronicle article
- read the citations for the hospital and the police and fire departments here