MANATEE COUNTY (WFLA) – A Bradenton nursing home is facing more than $8600 in fines for violations relating to COVID-19. All three of the fines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are listed as ‘serious’ and are listed under ‘respiratory protection’ violations.
Braden River Rehabilitation Center was one of the hardest-hit facilities early on in the pandemic. At one point, more than 50 people at the facility were infected with the virus, including 26 staff members. 21 people have died from the virus at the nursing home, including one employee.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA has cited 85 establishments for violations relating to coronavirus, resulting in proposed penalties totaling $1,222,156.
According to a news release, OSHA inspections have resulted in the agency citing employers for violations, including failures to:
- Implement a written respiratory protection program;
- Provide a medical evaluation, respirator fit test, training on the proper use of a respirator and personal protective equipment;
- Report an injury, illness or fatality;
- Record an injury or illness on OSHA recordkeeping forms; and
- Comply with the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970
“I think we should all be very pleased that OSHA has pivoted its energy toward those high risk locations not just to protect the residents which we are very concerned about, but to protect the employees who work there which is really their job,” said Associate Vice President of USF Health Dr. Jay Wolfson.
8 On Your Side contacted Braden River Rehabilitation Center’s management company, Southern Healthcare Management, for comment on the recent violations.
VP of Compliance and Quality Management for the company Susan Kaar sent us this statement in response:
Please know that recent articles or statements regarding the OSHA citation received by Braden River Rehabilitation Center contains several factual errors and lack crucial factual context. These inaccuracies give the impression that current conditions at the Center led to OSHA’s citation and fines. This is incorrect, and we ask any article you publish or have published reflect the following facts.
In March, during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of our Braden River employees contracted COVID-19 and tragically passed away. Although we had no way of knowing whether the employee contracted the virus at Braden River, out of an abundance of caution, we self-reported that employee’s death to OSHA. That self-reporting led to an OSHA investigation that began in April and recently concluded with Braden River’s full cooperation.
Relatedly, as early as March, Braden River began mandating the use of N95 masks for certain employees as a part of its efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Prior to arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, Braden River employees had never been required to wear N95 masks, and the Center was unaware that such masks are considered “respirators” by OSHA. As we have now learned, OSHA requires employers who mandate the use of “respirators” (like N95 masks) to adopt a formal respiratory protection program. While the Center was unaware that mandating the use of N95 masks carried additional obligations in accordance with OSHA’s regulations, at all times, Braden River ensured that its employees had and used needed PPE.
As part of its investigation, OSHA pointed out potential violations related to the absence of a written respiratory protection plan, including the lack of medical evaluations for respirator use and fit testing. By the time of OSHA’s onsite inspection in September – which was the final step in its investigation – all technical violations had long been abated in full.
Thus, OSHA’s recent citation relates solely to Braden River’s failure to adopt a formal respiratory protection program and implement associated medical assessments and fit testing required for N95 masks. The citation and fine were not, as some articles have indicated, a result of any findings by OSHA during its September visit, and they do not reflect any current concerns by OSHA about the operations of Braden River.
When the COVID-19 pandemic initially struck Florida, Braden River was among those nursing homes that suffered an outbreak. A number of our residents and staff became ill or passed away, and our thoughts are with them every day. Since then, thanks to the heroic efforts of the Braden River team – efforts that continue to this day – the Center has provided a safe, loving, and caring home for our valued residents.
“Mask fitting is really a technical process and you have to have somebody who knows how to do it, you just don’t buy a mask and put it on somebody’s face. It has to be the right size, it has to be the right contour, people have to be trained how to use it and when not to take it off which is a big challenge because that requires employee education which is part of what was not there,” said Dr. Wolfson. “They didn’t have a formal program, they were not using the right masks, they were not doing the mask fitting, they were not following up appropriately. All the things that would have ensured that people were at least doing the basic thing to protect each other and the patients, they were not doing at all or they weren’t doing it properly,” he continued.