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California healthcare workers take HCA Healthcare to court over COVID-19 failures

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | August 31, 2020
Business Affairs

“I feel like they didn’t have the proper equipment and should have been more prepared for this,” she said. “They could have been more prepared and had more staff for us to be able to perform our job and get our patients drawn in a timely manner. It wasn’t like that. It was more pressure than usual, because I didn’t want to catch this.”

The hospital system is also accused of forcing sick employees to work despite having COVID-19 symptoms and ignoring repeated worker complaints to supervisors about lack of PPE, contract tracing for workers and the failure of hospital management to promptly notify workers who were exposed to the virus.

“The responses that were given to her were, ‘This is just CDC guidelines. Get in line. Show up and get the job done,’” said Campos Villalobos, whose mother, Sally Lara was a lab worker at HCA Healthcare. “That’s who my mother was. She was a get-the-job-done kind of woman. She started to supply her own PPE not just for herself but for her coworkers too.”

Lara, who came out of retirement at the start of the pandemic to help care for patients, contracted COVID-19 back in May and died a month later after being on a ventilator for two weeks. She was the second healthcare worker from Riverside Community Hospital to die from the virus.

“It just breaks my heart that my mom passed away on June 8 and I’m still hearing stories from employees because there is still not adequate PPE or enough supplies,” said her daughter. “I just really hope that we can bring enough awareness that another person does not have to be without their mother, father, daughter, cousin, brother and family members.”

The hospital previously faced two demonstrations, with one being a 10-day strike by about 500 nurses in late June over allegations of having dangerously low staff levels. A prior demonstration in April included about 50 nurses and other healthcare workers who were protesting over what they said was a failure of the facility to provide appropriate equipment, according to The Press-Enterprise.

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