Kaiser San Jose Medical Center was violating COVID-19 protocols long before its emergency department outbreak caused by an exposure on Christmas Day, according to Cal/OSHA records.
The agency documented multiple violations and fines at Kaiser's San Jose and Antioch locations months before the outbreak.
According to Cal/OSHA records, Kaiser San Jose in November was cited after it "failed to immediately report … the serious illness suffered by an employee who was hospitalized with COVID-19 for about 7 days starting on March 26, 2020."
The hospital also was cited for failure "to provide the Medical and Exposure records for an employee who potentially contracted COVID-19 at the workplace during the month of March 2020" at the request of Cal/OSHA.
Proposed fines for those previous violations at the San Jose hospital totaled more than $85,000.
More recently, the San Jose hospital's emergency department had more than 60 workers test positive for COVID-19 after a Christmas Day exposure, and one person died.
Kaiser's Antioch location was cited for multiple violations, including failure to report to Cal/OSHA when multiple employees were hospitalized as a result of COVID-19 in May and July.
The East Bay location also was cited for insufficient screening procedures, improper social distancing in its breakroom and failure to notify employees who had significant exposures to COVID-19 cases, among other violations.
Proposed fines for the Kaiser Antioch location totaled $56,000.
Kaiser said in a statement it disputes the citations and plans to appeal. Here's the organization's full statement:
"The Cal/OSHA citations stem from last year, in the spring. KP disputes these allegations and the citations will be appealed. Importantly, they have absolutely nothing to do with what may have occurred at Kaiser Permanente San Jose on Dec. 25.
"The safety of our employees, physicians, and patients is our highest priority. Kaiser Permanente hospitals in California follow practices that are in line with CDC guidance, recommendations by the World Health Organization, and Cal-OSHA, and which are consistent with the practices of other health care providers in California and around the country.
"The citations we have received stem mainly from allegations early in the pandemic. For example, PPE guidance has evolved as we grappled with national shortages. Cal/OSHA and public health guidance has also continued to evolve. We also observed early in the pandemic an effort by some labor groups to create and file OSHA complaints as part of their efforts to advocate for change in the then-current regulatory guidance. Not only does Kaiser Permanente have a significant number of large hospitals in California, we were also among the first to treat patients with COVID-19 – something that we are extremely proud of, but which also provided high visibility for these efforts.
"As we deliver care and treatment to our patients during this outbreak, we always seek to provide the best evidence-based care possible. These protocols allow our health care system to screen and treat patients effectively and provide the right level of care for this stage of the pandemic. Our experts continue to monitor the evolution of our knowledge about this illness, and we have continued to update our protocols based on the published guidance of Cal/OSHA and respected public health organizations. Given the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community, it remains critical for everyone to continue using the methods to help protect ourselves and others – especially masks, hand washing, avoiding gatherings, and social distancing."