Saturday, May 15, 2004

CA Hospital Penalized by CalOSHA for Doctor's Murder

I have written several times about federal OSHA's failure to cite employers for workplace violence, the second leading cause of death in the workplace. CalOSHA seems to take a different point of view, even under Governor Schwarzenegger.

CalOSHA yesterday cited the John George Psychiatric Pavilion and levied $54,000 in penalties for the murder of Erlinda Ursua by a mental health patient last December.
In a report sent to the hospital this week, Cal/OSHA found that the examination room was too isolated from other employees who could have been alerted in case of trouble.

"The exam room was behind locked doors and physically separated from the work areas where other employees were located," the report said. A "panic alarm" on the wall of the room was functional but too far away for Ursua to reach, officials concluded.

Hospital staff also failed to follow an unwritten policy that doctors were never to be left alone with "potentially violent patients," the report said.

Employees also failed to follow a policy that staff members were not supposed to wear scarves or jewelry, the report said. Ursua apparently wore a scarf that could have been used to strangle her, authorities said.

John George staff also failed to determine why Pavon was in possession of medical paperwork after she allegedly killed the doctor, the report said.

Prior to Ursua's murder, the hospital had received $30,000 in penalties for failure to correction workplace violence-related hazards. Ursua's family is suing the hospital for failure to heed the earlier warnings.

More here.