[April 11, 2017] POMONA, Calif. – Healthcare workers at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center say a systemic lack of training, staff and quality control is contributing to recurring unsanitary conditions in infants’ cribs, patient rooms and other areas, in a complaint filed with the California Department of Public Health.
“We simply are not properly trained to fully clean and sanitize the hospital, and management is aware of the problem,” said Carolina Valdivia, a housekeeper at Pomona Valley. “We want to create safe working conditions and improve patient care, but our employer keeps dragging its feet rather than working with us to understand and take care of the problem.”
Workers report that their managers tell them not to spend more than 30 minutes cleaning each room, even though it isn’t enough time to do a thorough job. In urgent situations, they have to clean rooms in less than 15 minutes, often by themselves, and under those time limits there is no way to do it properly.
The complaint filed today lists a number of sanitary problems caused by the lack of training, staffing, and monitoring by hospital managers:
- Cribs in the neonatal intensive care unit frequently were not being cleaned and had a filmy residue;
- Unoccupied patient rooms are found with litter and dust;
- Workers have regularly used the same mop to clean patient rooms, restrooms and hallways, because, many say, they were never told of a hospital policy instructing them to use a separate mop head for each area;
- Hazardous waste is not being separated from regular trash. Workers report finding bowel bags, heavily soiled linens, and chemotherapy bags mixed with non-medical waste;
- Many housekeepers are not aware they need to empty blood and other bodily fluids from kidney dishes in the surgical area, with one 13-year employee reporting she had never been told by managers that she missed that step in her routine; and
- New housekeepers are trained by employees who were not instructed themselves, leading to the continuation of bad practices.
In December 2016, workers filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board asserting that hospital managers coerced at least six employees who exposed dangerous working conditions into signing an unlawful confidentiality agreement prohibiting them from discussing their lack of training and being needlessly exposed to infectious diseases.
According to a study released by Consumer Reports, in 2015, Pomona Valley Hospital reported a rate worse than the national benchmark in three areas of patient safety: avoiding surgical site infections, and avoiding bacterial infections of Clostridium difficile (C. diff.) and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
Workers voted in January 2016 to gain a stronger voice to improve patient care and working conditions by joining SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW). However, the hospital has repeatedly refused to recognize their vote and is instead wasting precious hospital resources on frivolous legal challenges, workers say. More than 1,100 Pomona Valley Hospital employees are affected by the delay.