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OSHA Cites Oregon State Hospital $54,180 For Violations

Workplace safety regulators cited Oregon State Hospital for failure to investigate workplace injuries.
Large red building, the Oregon State Hospital
Oregon State Hospital in Salem. | BEN BOTKIN/THE LUND REPORT
September 22, 2022

Regulators cited Oregon State Hospital for failure to investigate an estimated 78% of worker injuries tied to violence, slapping the state-run psychiatric facility with a $54,180 fine. 

Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division regulators issued the citation and notification of penalty to the hospital on Sept. 16, though hospital officials released limited details publicly earlier this month. Salem Reporter first reported on the citations.

The state-run psychiatric hospital, which has 705 beds in Salem and a satellite campus in Junction City, has hundreds of workplace injuries or illnesses annually that force employees to miss work. In 2021, the hospital had 336 workplace injury cases that forced employees to miss a combined 2,844 days of work, the citation said.

In the first six months of this year, the hospital had 240 cases and 1,996 lost days of work. Of those, 102 cases were recorded as injuries related to workplace violence. Picking a random sample of nine of those, regulators found only two were investigated. All were supposed to be investigated.

The bulk of the fine, $53,750, is for failure to investigate those cases. OSHA also fined $430 for failure to maintain a log of assaults on workers as well as other record-keeping lapses. 

In a statement released earlier this month, hospital Superintendent  Dolly Matteucci said the facility was already making improvements. 

“One of our guiding principles at the hospital is to ensure the safety of both our patients and our staff,” Matteucci said in a statement. “Our staff deserve to come to work each day without the fear of being hurt. We know we have more work to do, and we know more thorough investigation of incidents will help us learn from what happened and prevent future occurrences.”

OSHA regulators recommended the state hospital take other steps.

They are: 

  • More training in the hospital’s workplace prevention violence program.
  • Improve training in record-keeping and tracking patient movements.
  • Improve review and follow-up on investigations to prevent similar cases.

Hospital officials said they’ve brought in a workplace violence prevention consultant and adopted a new tool to identify patients with a high risk of aggressive behavior. 

Even so, concerns remain. Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, said the violations point to wider problems with the system.

“This news is very disheartening,” Courtney said in a statement. “In 2013, we built a brand new, state-of the-art hospital to help people with mental illness. We've been pouring money into staffing since then. Obviously, we haven't figured it out. We need to be able to provide treatment while keeping staff and patients safe.”

The citation came amid other challenges for the state-run psychiatric residential facility. The hospital now has to comply with a federal court order that limits how long it can treat patients so they can face criminal charges and aid in their defense. The new limits have stoked fears that release of those people into communities without resources will put them on the streets, lead to public safety concerns, or both.

You can reach Ben Botkin at [email protected] or via Twitter @BenBotkin1.