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An administrative law judge held that a behavioral health care center in Bradenton, Florida, unlawfully exposed its workers to more than 50 attacks of violence by residents, the U.S. Department of Labor said in a statement Tuesday.
Federal Administrative Law Judge Dennis Phillips held that hospital management company UHS of Delaware Inc. and Premier Behavioral Health Solutions of Florida Inc. exposed workers to violence over a more than two-year period that included being kicked, punched, bit, pulled and scratched by residents, and that both companies deserve to be sanctioned for destroying surveillance video evidence of the workplace violence.
During the 13-day hearing, 15 direct care workers testified about their experiences of violence at the facility and DOL attorneys established at least 55 incidents of patients attacking staff members.
In his decision, Judge Phillips found that the companies had “woefully inadequate” measures to address patient-on-staff violence and assessed penalties of more than $22,000 for the lack of safety measures and bad faith destruction of surveillance video.
The judge also ordered UHS and Suncoast to implement abatement measures including creating and implementing a comprehensive workplace violence program, hiring specialized security staff able to monitor patients and respond to acts of aggression, engaging employees in practice drills on how to respond to patient aggression and reconfiguring the nurses station so patients are unable to gain access to it.
In 2017, the Bradenton health center was investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in 2017 after a patient jumped over a nurse’s station and stabbed a worker with a pair of scissors. At the time, OSHA concluded that the workers were exposed to violence hazards and cited the company with proposed penalties of more than $70,000.
Violence against health care workers worldwide are a “persistent pandemic,” according to a study published in December’s American Journal of Managed Care that is calling on more safeguards and attention to the issue.