BRADENTON, Fla. — A Manatee County long-term care facility has been fined by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA.
10 Investigates has confirmed that Braden River Rehabilitation Center LLC. was cited for three "serious" violations on October 2.
All three citations are listed under "respiratory protection" violations. According to documents from OSHA, the facility has been fined $8,675 for the "coronavirus-related citations."
10 Investigates told you earlier this year in a series of investigations into COVID-19 outbreaks at long-term care and nursing homes, that Braden River Rehab was one of the hardest-hit facilities in Manatee County with 45 cases, at one time, of COVID-19.
According to the latest data from the Florida Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard, the facility currently is listed to have 13 positive coronavirus cases among people who live there.
Healthcare Services Group Inc. in Bradenton is also listed on OSHA's site for "coronavirus-related citations" and was initially fined $9,639.
According to OSHA's website, since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, they have cited 85 establishments for violations relating to coronavirus. Penalties associated with those citations add up to $1,222,156.
RELATED: You can check the status of COVID-19 cases at long-term care facilities and nursing homes here.
10 Investigates reached out to the facility for comment. Susan Kaar, vice president of compliance and quality management for Southern Healthcare Management, LLC, sent us the following emailed statement on behalf of Braden River Rehab:
"Please know that recent articles or statements regarding the OSHA citation received by Braden River Rehabilitation Center contains several factual errors and lack crucial factual context. These inaccuracies give the impression that current conditions at the Center led to OSHA’s citation and fines. This is incorrect, and we ask any article you publish or have published reflect the following facts.
In March, during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of our Braden River employees contracted COVID-19 and tragically passed away. Although we had no way of knowing whether the employee contracted the virus at Braden River, out of an abundance of caution, we self-reported that employee’s death to OSHA. That self-reporting led to an OSHA investigation that began in April and recently concluded with Braden River’s full cooperation.
Relatedly, as early as March, Braden River began mandating the use of N95 masks for certain employees as a part of its efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Prior to arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, Braden River employees had never been required to wear N95 masks, and the Center was unaware that such masks are considered “respirators” by OSHA. As we have now learned, OSHA requires employers who mandate the use of “respirators” (like N95 masks) to adopt a formal respiratory protection program. While the Center was unaware that mandating the use of N95 masks carried additional obligations in accordance with OSHA’s regulations, at all times, Braden River ensured that its employees had and used needed PPE.
As part of its investigation, OSHA pointed out potential violations related to the absence of a written respiratory protection plan, including the lack of medical evaluations for respirator use and fit testing. By the time of OSHA’s onsite inspection in September – which was the final step in its investigation – all technical violations had long been abated in full.
Thus, OSHA’s recent citation relates solely to Braden River’s failure to adopt a formal respiratory protection program and implement associated medical assessments and fit testing required for N95 masks. The citation and fine were not, as some articles have indicated] a result of any findings by OSHA during its September visit, and they do not reflect any current concerns by OSHA about the operations of Braden River.
When the COVID-19 pandemic initially struck Florida, Braden River was among those nursing homes that suffered an outbreak. A number of our residents and staff became ill or passed away, and our thoughts are with them every day. Since then, thanks to the heroic efforts of the Braden River team – efforts that continue to this day – the Center has provided a safe, loving, and caring home for our valued residents."
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