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Indianapolis VA Hospital Failed To Keep Workers Safe From COVID-19 Says OSHA

FILE PHOTO: Jill Sheridan

A veteran’s hospital in Indianapolis received federal violations for failing to protect its employees from COVID-19. It’s one of the few workplaces in the country to receive a virus-related citation from workplace safety inspectors.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center failed to provide PPE to some workers entrance screeners, cardiology workers and paperwork processors in mid-March.

The violations correlate with three deaths from the coronavirus, according to the union that represents VA workers. Internal memos show the Veterans Health Administration didn’t require all employees – not just those interacting with COVID-19 patients – to wear masks until May 7.

M.J .Burke is a physical therapist at the hospital and an officer in the union’s national chapter. She said they haven’t been included in the VA administration’s plans to address dozens of employee deaths across the country. 

“So by VA policy we should be involved in after-accident investigations as well and we haven’t been,” she says. “That’s what leads me to think they’re not investigating 51 other deaths.”

A spokesperson for the hospital called the OSHA reviews “misleading” because they attempt to judge actions that are six months old, even though the facility has provided care for 500 COVID-19 patients. They said the current employee infection rate is zero and the hospital always followed CDC guidelines around COVID-19 testing, treatment and prevention. 

Contact reporter Justin at jhicks@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @Hicks_JustinM.

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