Queen workers win resumption of stronger COVID-19 precautions following exposures

NewsJune 24, 2020

Executives at Queen of the Valley Medical Center learned the hard way that they put the hospital’s reputation at risk when they put workers and patients at risk of contracting COVID-19.

At a moment when coronavirus cases were rapidly increasing in Napa County, Queen of the Valley inexplicably stopped testing all newly admitted patients; stopped isolating potentially COVID-positive patients; and stopped enforcing rules requiring patients to wear masks.

As a result more than 40 Queen workers were potentially exposed to COVID-19. More than 30 of those workers were potentially exposed when they treated a patient who had not been tested upon admission, but subsequently tested positive for the coronavirus a couple days later.  

Initially, Queen workers brought their concerns directly to management, but they went public when management failed to act. Workers shared their concerns with reporters and generated stories in the Napa County Register, San Francisco Chronicle, SFGate and Becker’s Hospital Review.

NUHW also filed a complaint with the California Department of Public Health, which quickly dispatched an investigator for a surprise inspection.

As the negative attention mounted, Queen management informed us that they were resuming safety measures that they had let slide including:

  • Testing all new patients.
  • Treating all new patients as PUIs until test results are returned.
  • Ensuring that all workers have access to N95 respirator masks, gowns, gloves, and face shields when caring for patients who have either tested positive for COVID-19 or whose test results have not yet been received.

But there is still more to accomplish at the hospital. Management continues refusing to test many of the exposed workers or put them on paid administrative leave until it can be confirmed that they are not infected with COVID-19. Queen of the Valley’s testing policy risks further spread inside the hospital, and we will continue putting pressure on management to test any worker who was potentially exposed to the coronavirus virus.

“We’ve shown the hospital that there is a price to pay for getting lax about COVID-19 safety precautions,” said Cathy Paras, a nursing assistant. “Now we need to get the Queen to guarantee that workers who have been put at risk because of management’s negligence get tested right away and aren’t put in a position to potentially infect others.”