Federal workplace safety officials have fined Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London after an employee there contracted COVID-19 and later died.
The agency announced more than $15,000 in fines earlier this month, alleging the hospital failed to provide adequate respiratory protections to the worker and keep proper records of a safety violation.
OSHA records and hospital officials did not name the employee. But in May, Elva Graveline, a certified nursing assistant at the hospital, died due to complications from the coronavirus. A rally was held by union officials to honor her memory and call for greater worker protections.
A spokesperson for L&M Health Care Workers Union, AFT Local 5123, said that “while we don’t have the actual citation/penalty docs … our understanding is that they are the result of [OSHA’s] investigation into Elva’s death.”
“Our national union joined a coalition of labor groups last month for a lawsuit against OSHA over their failure to keep hospitals and health facilities safe. We’re gratified to see that producing tangible results,” AFT Connecticut Vice President John Brady, RN, said in a written statement.
“The agency has taken an important step to hold L+M management and Yale-New Haven Health executives accountable,” Brady said. “The conditions that allowed Elva to become infected by and succumb to COVID-19 should have never been allowed in any work setting.”
In a statement, Fiona Phelan, a spokesperson for the hospital, which is owned by Yale New Haven Health, said the “OSHA report contains important insights but we take issue with some, including the citation for lacking a specific COVID-19 policy regarding respiratory protection.”
“Given the unprecedented nature of the virus, we are unaware of any hospitals that carried such protocols at the onset of this pandemic,” Phelan said. “Additionally, the OSHA report does not indicate any lack of appropriate PPE for our staff throughout the pandemic.”
“We are working through the administrative process with OSHA in resolving the citation,” Phelan said.
It’s not immediately clear whether the network intends to pay the fine.