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The Mechanics
« Congress Hotel Strike Hits 3000 Days A Look Behind: Mayor Emanuel's TIF Commission; What They "Do and Don't" »

Labor & Worker Rights Tue Sep 06 2011

Recent OSHA Fine Highlights Risks for Workers at Resurrection Health Care

On August 25, Saint Francis Hospital in Evanston was fined $23,800 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for employees being exposed to patient blood.

According to Robert Malgieri, spokesman for HEART/AFSCME, the employees at St. Francis Hospital contacted OSHA due to their own concern for employee safety.

The 13-page complaint issued by OSHA states that St. Francis has failed to inform housekeeping staff of tasks that would result in exposure to bloodborne pathogens, have materials for bloodborne pathogen training in an appropriate language for the employees, explain what would be the plan for St. Francis Hospital if an employee was exposed to bloodborne pathogens, failed to explain what tasks would result in possible exposure to bloodborne pathogens, did not tell staff of methods that could prevent exposure, and that employees were not given a session to ask questions during the bloodborne pathogens training session.

Bloodborne pathogens include the Hepatitis B virus, Hepatitis C virus, and HIV as well as viral hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola and Lassa fever.

According to the complaint, housekeeping and food-services workers could be exposed to the pathogens through routine requirements of their jobs, such as cleaning furniture in patient rooms, closing sharps containers, removing and transporting biohazard waste bags, removing and transporting regular trash where nursing staff might have improperly disposed of sharps, cleaning bathrooms used by patients, retrieving patient trays, and breaking down the trays for washing.

According to a press release from AFSCME, St. Francis Hospital has been fined more than $66,000 by OSHA for workplace hazards.

One of the chief complaints is that the employees are not being given this information in an appropriate language. According to the press release from AFSCME, many of those on the housekeeping and food-service staff have a limited English proficiency.

Saint Francis Hospital is part of Resurrection Health Care, the largest Catholic health care group in Chicago. Resurrection and AFSCME have been in a battle for several years over the workers rights to unionize. Recently, nurses at Our Lady of the Resurrection Hospital on the Northwest Side voted to unionize but faced interrogations and threats of cuts and termination, according to Malgieri. As a result, the votes will be invalidated due to the illegal tactics allegedly used.

Resurrection could not be reached to comment about the fines.

Although the fine is not directly related to the ongoing struggle to unionize Resurrection employees, it could be added to arguments of the dangers employees currently face at the hospital without union representation.

Resurrection Health Care recently signed an agreement to merge with Provena Health Care, which would create the largest Catholic health care network in the state. The merger is awaiting approval from the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review.

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