Hospital Workers File OSHA Complaint Against Yale-New Haven Hospital, Citing Needlestick Risk

NEW HAVEN, Conn., April 26 /PRNewswire/ -- Citing serious concerns about needle safety at Connecticut's largest hospital, a union representing hospital service workers has filed a formal complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The complaint against Yale-New Haven Hospital, submitted by the New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), cites evidence that the hospital made its selection of safety syringes based on a restrictive buying agreement with Novation, a Group Purchasing Organization (GPO) that provides hospitals with supplies.

Filed on April 22, the complaint details the facts supporting the union's belief that "the hospital's potentially dangerous practices may constitute willful violations of OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard." That standard requires that hospitals choose safety syringes based on employee feedback and device effectiveness. Instead, the union says, Yale based its selection decision on a contractual relationship between Novation and Becton Dickinson (BD), the world's largest needle producer.

"No one ever asked me about needle safety," said Geraldine Douglas, a Patient Care Associate (PCA) who works on a medical floor in Yale-New Haven Hospital. "I suffered a needle stick last year using one of Becton Dickinson's so-called 'safe' needles -- it's every healthcare worker's nightmare. I have lots of on-the-frontlines experience to share. It's incredible that my hospital wouldn't consult with me so they can do everything possible to put my safety, my family's safety, my patients' safety first and foremost."

Yale-New Haven Hospital had been using a retractable syringe called VanishPoint, made by Retractable Technologies (RTI), which has the highest safety rating from the Emergency Care Research Institute (ECRI) (http://www.ecri.org/). The hospital subsequently switched to Becton Dickinson's "Safety Glide" syringe, which has an "acceptable-not recommended" rating from ECRI, and has been cited as presenting a greater risk of a needle stick. According to CDC estimates, needle stick injuries affect more than 700,000 health care workers each year, exposing them to HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and other potentially deadly diseases.

The complaint charges the switch to the Becton needle ignored provisions of both the Blood Borne Pathogens Standards and the Needle Stick Safety and Prevention Act. Instead of consulting employees and relying on independent safety reviews as required, Yale-New Haven selected syringes based on BD's contractual relationship with Novation, rather than on safety and device efficacy. As documented in a 2002 New York Times investigative series, BD has a long history of making large, questionable payments to Novation, which in turn imposes penalties and disincentives on member hospitals that purchase supplies outside its limited network of vendors.

As part of a public information campaign about needle safety, SEIU representatives will try to engage members of the Voluntary Hospital Association in a dialogue about GPO contracts and hospital safety standards during the Association's Leadership Conference at the San Diego Conference Center and Marriott Hotel April 25-28, and will be available for comment during that event.

For a full copy of the OSHA complaint, go to http://www.gpowatch.com/.

Service Employees International Union

CONTACT: Nicholas Rudikoff of the Service Employees International Union,+1-646-319-6970

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