Feds Cite Connecticut Hospital for Unsafe Workplace

July 20, 2010

The U.S. Department of Labor could fine a Connecticut hospital more than $6,000 after citing the medical center for failing to protect its workers from violent patients.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Friday that a six-month investigation determined that Danbury Hospital has not put in enough measures to prevent staff from being injured by patients who become hostile and aggressive.

An OSHA report on the 12-floor facility also revealed patients have been able to smuggle in everything from drugs and lighters to knives and guns.

“Workplace violence is a serious issue affecting many workers and employers across the nation,” Marthe Kent, OSHA’s New England regional administrator, said in a statement. “But it is one that can be addressed within the workplace if employers take systemic, thorough and continual action.”

The investigation, which started in January, found 25 cases in the last five years of patient-caused injuries sidelining Danbury Hospital workers. The report said those cases have accounted for employees losing 399 days of work and 212 work days that have had to be limited.

The report also said there were another 119 cases involving patient-on-worker violence that did not lead to injury or lost of work time for employees.

The hospital has almost 4,000 employees.

OSHA has proposed a $6,300 fine against the hospital. Ted Fitzgerald, an OSHA Deputy Regional Director, said Friday that the hospital has until July 23 to contest the penalty and that the investigation was launched as a result of the staff filing complaints against the hospital.

“This report shows that the hospital should take more proactive steps to address these issues and concerns and protect employees,” Fitzgerald said.

In March, an 85-year-old patient allegedly tucked a revolver into his hospital gown and shot a nursing supervisor who tried to wrestle the gun away.

In October 2009, another nurse was hit in the jaw by a patient in the psychiatric ward. The blow caused the worker to fall and break her hip.

A case in May 2009 reported that a security guard was beaten by a patient in the behavioral care unit.

The report suggests Danbury Hospital create a violence prevention program that includes more training for staff to deal with aggressive patients, increasing workplace violence policy awareness and a more thorough screening process for psychiatric patients with histories of hostility.

A Danbury Hospital spokeswoman said Friday that the medical center disagrees with parts of the report but will not contest the citation.

“Like every other hospital, our patients are here because they are ill or injured and unfortunately, they may sometimes display disruptive behaviors,” said Andrea Rynn, the hospital’s director of public relations.

She said Danbury Hospital has recently done an internal security review and is taking steps to improve the safety of employees and visitors.

She said the hospital will be implementing new policies and procedures in hospital access, emergency planning and general facility security.

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