The Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, one of the largest hospitals in San Gabriel Valley, California, has come under fire by its employees who believe poor management and unsanitary conditions are putting patients at risk for serious, sometimes deadly infections.
In a report filed by unit staff members of the Service Employees International Union, employees claim in 2015 alone, 97 patients became infected with Clostridium difficile, commonly referred to as C. diff, which is much higher than the national average. Staff at the hospital have been working to become unionized for some time and believe their jobs should not be in jeopardy as a result of reporting these serious and unsettling revelations.
C. diff is a potentially dangerous bacterial infection that can affect both humans and animals alike. It can cause severe diarrhea and dehydration, as well as possibly life-threatening inflammation of the colon. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 6.5 percent of patients who contract C. diff die from the infection.
Included in the report is a statement from environmental services employee Leticia Duarte who said, “I pick up bone, blood and flesh. It can be on the walls and ceiling. We use mops to clean up. We’re not trained how to handle that.” Between 2012 and 2014, 19 patients died at the facility as a result of C. diff, according to state data. Despite these troublesome statistics, employees have alleged hospital management has turned a blind eye, ignoring their concerns over proper training on how to effectively stop the spread of such hazardous contagions.
The hospital’s staff has expressed legitimate concern over personal and patient safety, as well as management’s ostensible lack of interest, by pushing for more thorough training on how to handle and eliminate the needless risks posed to themselves and those being treated at the hospital, regardless of their length of stay. Pomona Valley Hospital housekeeper Maria Heredia stated, “I have had only one training in 12 years here, and that was done by a co-worker. I have not received any training on infection control, what to do if I get infected or the difference between airborne infections and contact infections.”
In addition to the 97 infections in 2015 (totaling 143 over a three-year period) and 19 deaths due to C. diff, the hospital also has a reported nine cases of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, otherwise referred to as MRSA, which is another potentially deadly bacterial infection that causes illness throughout various parts of the body and is particularly resistant to antibiotics, thus earning the title of “superbug,” just like C.diff. This is also much higher than the national average, and something that should not be dismissed in consideration of the continuity of care hospitals are entrusted and expected to provide. MRSA has a mortality rate of 14 percent.
In response to these latest claims, Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center issued a response through vice president of nursing and patient care services Darlene Scafiddi, who insisted employees are properly trained on an annual basis. “We have documentation of their training. We’re committed to public health and safety,” she said, adding, “We meet or exceed all state and federal regulations. We’re committed to promoting the health of everyone in our region.”
Workers continue to disagree, citing a lack of proper measures taken when patients are in isolation due to highly contagious infections by failing to warn before allowing staff to enter their room without appropriate protection against infection, as well as ignoring essential safety protocols while in the operating room. Duarte said, “In the operating room, they often irrigate to cool down the bones they’re cutting and that dirty water ends up on the floor, where doctors and other operating room staff step in it. They track it around to other operating rooms because they don’t change their booties.”
As if a medical procedure and/or hospital stay wasn’t scary enough, this certainly raises questions not just about Pomona Valley, but hospitals all around the country. It’s frightening to think those we trust with our health and well-being might be willing to overlook the very real dangers patients face while undergoing treatment, even for the simplest of things, simply because they don’t want to be held accountable for situations that, with a little recognition and attention, could effectually be corrected.
Though it should go without saying, profit should never come before patient.