COVID-19 death of nurse leads to fines at Oakland hospital

Sutter Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland will face fines after an investigation into the death of a nurse last July, according to the California Nurses Association.

Video Transcript

MATT BOONE: At Sutter Alta Bates Summit Hospital in Oakland, nurse Michael Hill remembers not thinking much about masks and protective gear as the pandemic began.

MIKE HILL: I don't think anybody foresaw the fact that we would not have enough PPE available.

MATT BOONE: But that would become a defining issue at the hospital and across the country.

MIKE HILL: That was a huge failure for the nurses and the patients.

MATT BOONE: And at Summit last July, one of his colleagues, nurse Janine Paiste-Ponder died after contracting COVID-19.

- In Janine's case, at that time you weren't allowed to wear a mask in the hallway, only in the patient's room. But the patient kept running out of the room, so nurses kept getting exposed.

MATT BOONE: According to the California Nurses Association, Cal/OSHA has just issued citations to the hospital after an investigation of her death revealed workplace safety violations. But even more distressing than the loss of their own was dealing daily with patient deaths, says Hill.

MIKE HILL: A lot of the nurses have that PTSD because they saw so many patients die.

MATT BOONE: Nurse Mawata Kamara works in the ER at San Leandro, a public hospital. She says over the winter surge they were inundated daily.

MAWATA KAMARA: It led to a lot of stress. It led to a lot of patients coming for care that were either sitting in the emergency room for an extremely long time because we were backed up.

MATT BOONE: As the mother of a young daughter, it also transformed her home life.

MAWATA KAMARA: I turned my whole garage into a decontamination center. [LAUGHS]

I used to come home, I had spray everywhere. I would change from one scrub to another, wipe down everything before I even walked into my house to touch my family.

MATT BOONE: Few silver linings from a nursing perspective, though Hill says there is one.

MIKE HILL: If ever a pandemic like this comes again, we'll be prepared.

MATT BOONE: In Oakland, Matt Boone, ABC 7 News.