BOSTON, April 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The management of Tufts Medical Center has been forced to pay a $5,000 fine, as well as to post a public notice this month for its registered nurses, detailing numerous lapses in its efforts to track injuries to nurses, including a significant number of needle stick injuries, which could have exposed nurses to life threatening pathogens, including HIV and Hepatitis C.
The settlement agreement with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration was reached this month, after OSHA issued a letter detailing a number of instances where the hospital failed to document and track injuries to staff. Under federal law all workplace injuries are required to be tracked on what are commonly known as "OSHA 300 logs." The logs are a vital tool used to monitor the type and frequency of workplace injuries, and for identifying ongoing workplace safety issues that may need to be addressed. The investigation by OSHA resulted from a complaint filed by the nurses' union, the Massachusetts Nurses Association, which discovered the lack of proper injury tracking while doing its own investigation of unreported incidents of workplace violence at the facility in 2009.
According to the OSHA investigation, Tufts Medical Center did not prepare an annual summary of work-related injuries and illnesses for 2007 or 2008, failed to track the days employees weren't able to work due to injuries (even when an employee was out for over 180 days), failed to keep the employee's name private as is mandated by law, and failed to document sharp and needle stick injuries and illnesses (this happened 67 times in 2007, 90 times in 2008 and 59 times in 2009). Needle stick injuries are a serious concern for health care workers: such injuries can expose nurses to blood borne pathogens, like HIV and Hepatitis C. It is vitally important to track these injuries to help identify trends and potential causes of these injuries.
"For a hospital, particularly a major teaching hospital, to show such a lack of concern for the health and safety of its workers is a travesty," said Barbara Tiller, RN, a clinical resource nurse at the facility and chair of the Massachusetts Nurse Association Local Bargaining Unit at the hospital. "Any health care provider knows that documenting the existence of a problem is the first and most important step in being able to address it. We see this as part of a pattern of behavior on the part of this administration to disregard their obligations, not only to its staff, but also to the patients under our care. We hope this fine and this penalty sends a message to our administration that they need to be accountable for the conditions they create for their workforce."
The OSHA investigation over problems with worker safety is the latest in a series of ongoing issues the nurses have had with the hospital in recent years. Nurses staged a picket outside the hospital on February 11, 2010 to protest dangerous staffing conditions at the facility resulting from a change in the nurse's staffing pattern, which the nurses claim violated the hospital's obligation to negotiate those changes as stipulated in the nurses' union contract. Since the new model of care has gone into effect, there have been hundreds of official reports filed by the nurses documenting unsafe staffing incidents. In fact, there were 132 such reports filed over a 179 day period from September 2009 through March 2010. As with the problem with the OSHA logs, the hospital has failed to address any of the nurses staffing and patient safety concerns.
The nurses continue to document their concerns and are preparing to reach out to the hospital's board of trustees as well as to local public officials for support in their efforts to improve conditions at the facility.
"If things don't change, we are afraid the next article we will read about this hospital will be about the death of a patient or a worker," said Tiller. "All we want is for our health care employer to care about the health of their staff and their patients."
Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest professional health care organization and the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 23,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public.