ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — According to the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)—the agency overseeing workplace safety compliance—has leveled violations at Albany Medical Center Hospital. NYSNA said the violations were for failing to protect nurses from COVID.
“[Albany Med] refuses to listen to us or take proper measures to protect us during this pandemic. They do not support nurses but even in the face of this we still fight to provide quality care,” said Michele Hana, a registered nurse (RN) in the emergency room, in a written statement.
The union says nurses at Albany Med were notified by OSHA of citations against the hospital for three violations:
- Failing to give respirators to employees to protect from aerosolized COVID
- Failing to ensure that RNs provided user checks on N95 respirators
- Failing to ensure that each RN could demonstrate how to check the seals of N95 respirators
The violations, considered “serious” by OSHA, are listed on the agency’s website. However, the OSHA site clearly indicates that “violations under contest—which means the citations could be added or deleted. Either way, current OSHA-proposed fines against Albany Med total $40,959—over $13,000 for each violation.
The violations were issued on March 8. They were then contested on March 10.
“[Albany Med] management has never taken COVID protocols seriously, said RN Tonia Bazel. “OSHA has confirmed what we have been saying for months. We, as nurses, are doing everything we can to keep people safe and healthy without the help of our management.”
A spokesperson for Albany Med returned the following comment:
Albany Med has contested these citations and looks forward to presenting its side of the story. OSHA informed us that the investigation would remain open until May 1. We would have hoped OSHA would have gathered more information and closed its investigation before making any citation.
On the first citation, regarding supposedly not requiring N95 respirators: Health care workers at Albany Med have been using N95 masks for aerosol-generating procedures throughout the pandemic. In addition, OSHA’s other two citation items clearly state that Albany Med required employees to wear N95s while providing care to suspected and confirmed positive Covid-19 patients, which contradicts this item.
Further, on citations 2 and 3, regarding seal checks: All employees who wear N95 masks were provided instructions on how to perform the very simple user seal test and signed attestations that they understood how to check the seal of their masks. New N95 masks have been available for anyone who needs one. Our supply of N95 masks has been and remains sufficient.
Albany Med is contesting these citations because we believe they were issued in error. Albany Med continues to negotiate in good faith with the union, and will continue to cooperate fully with OSHA’s ongoing investigation.Matthew Markham
Albany Medical Center