The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health has fined Alta Bates Summit Medical Center for failing to warn a hospital worker and an Oakland police officer that they were exposed to meningitis, officials announced last week
The two, who were sick for days before and after the hospital confirmed the exposure on Dec. 6, 2009, are permanently disabled as a result.
Alta Bates Summit Medical Center and its parent company, Sutter Health, have to pay the state regulator Cal-Osha $84,450 for not reporting the case of meningococcal disease to local public officials, as well as failing to notify the employees exposed to the potentially deadly disease.
"I've been through a lot," said Suheil "Sam" Saliba, the respiratory technician who contracted meningitis after treating the infected patient.
In a statement, Alta Bates said the medical center took steps to prevent such an incident from happening again. The statement dismissed the attention drummed up last week by the California Nurses Association union, which is locked in bitter contract negotiations and will hold its fifth strike Tuesday.
Saliba, 49, was working at the Oakland facility on Dec. 3, 2009, when American Medical Response medics transported the patient to Alta Bates emergency department.
Police found the patient unconscious at home in bed during a welfare check and called the Oakland Fire Department and AMR.
Within days, Saliba and an Oakland
Saliba said it could have been prevented had he known taking a dose of the oral antibiotic Cipro would heal him. Instead, he is on permanent disability and has filed a workers' compensation suit against his former employer of more than 20 years.
"It could have been prevented," he said.
Bowen suffered "serious neurological damage," according to a civil suit filed against Sutter Health and Alta Bates Summit in Alameda County Superior Court.
Bowen's lawsuit claims hospital officials ignored communicable disease reporting laws. He and his lawyer could not be reached for comment.
Cal-Osha also cited the Oakland Police and Fire departments for not having a protocol to protect workers in health care and related industries from diseases that are spread by coughing and sneezing. Cal-Osha began requiring the measures in the summer of 2009.
This was the first citation under the requirements.