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Hospital cited by OSHA for violations related to TB outbreak

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Updated: 4/10 6:45 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3.com) -- The Nevada Occupational Health & Safety Administration has cited Summerlin Hospital for multiple violations.

These findings come after a woman with tuberculosis was roaming freely in the hospital last year. She and her twins later died.

OSHA has issued eight citations against Summerlin Hospital after it conducted an investigation into the tuberculosis outbreak from last Spring. Penalties against Summerlin for the eight violations totaled $39,600.

"The inspections found that some of the proper precautions were not being taken when the patients were admitted to the hospital. The employees were exposed to the tuberculosis and the hospital's plan was not being followed, and there were some deficiencies in the plan as well," said Teri Williams with Nevada OSHA.

The case centers on Vanessa White. She gave birth to twin daughters at Summerlin Hospital, and while unknowingly carrying TB, she was exposing others including her daughters to the disease. First, one of the twins died; a month later Vanessa died at another hospital, and eventually the other twin died.

Summerlin hospital disputes the OSHA citations and in a written statement says it plans to contest them vigorously, "The safety and health of our employees is always of the upmost importance. We use nationally recognized protocols to prevent the spread of infection."

The statement further reads, "The citations relating to Summerlin’s infection control practices, policies and the steps taken during the TB situation last year procedures are inaccurate."

Meanwhile attorneys in Las Vegas are pushing forward with a class action lawsuit against Summerlin Hospital.

"When you have those symptoms you're supposed to take further measures to determine what the real issue is. Could this be tuberculosis? They don't do that," said attorney Mitch Bisson.

As Summerlin Hospital stated it plans to contest these citiations. That would involve a formal appeal to the OSHA review board.

There is another lawsuit filed by Ruben White, Vanessa's husband and twins' father. Since he works for OSHA, his attorneys declined to comment, saying it wouldn't be appropriate in this matter.

The infected patients received care by hospital staff, exposing the employees to Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Subsequently, at least 20 employees contracted TB and exhibited either active or latent forms of the infection.

A comprehensive investigation of the incident was initiated to determine whether there was a violation of Nevada OSHA safety and health standards or the general duty clause, and any effect the violations had on the incident. The investigation found multiple deficiencies in the hospital’s Tuberculosis Exposure Control Plan.

The maximum penalty that can be assessed for a serious violation is $7,000. Penalty adjustment factors for employer size, gravity of the violation, good faith and history are considered.

The $6,300 penalty assessed for the serious citations for Summerlin Hospital Medical Center takes into account a 10 percent reduction due to a clean inspection history with no violations cited in two previous inspections unrelated to the TB exposure.

Summerlin Hospital Medical Center has 15 working days from the day the citation and proposed penalties were received to remedy the violation and pay the associated penalties or notify OSHA of its intent to contest the citation.

Summerlin Hospital may also request an informal conference to be held within the 15 day period to receive further clarification or present additional evidence related to the violations cited, discuss options to correct the workplace hazards, or enter into an informal settlement agreement.
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