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Fountain Valley hospital workers protest for widespread patient testing and protection against coronavirus spread

Fountain Valley Regional Hospital workers on Thursday, July 2, protested what they called bare-minimum practices at the medical center to contain the spread of the coronavirus, alleging that hospital management isn’t doing enough to protect patients and staff.

At least 40 unionized workers demonstrated outside the 400-bed facility near Mile Square Park on Thursday, July 2, calling for more widespread patient testing and better prevention of mixing potentially infected patients and staff.



The workers said current measures and a lack of information about the virus’ spread at the facility are putting patients and desperately-needed staff in danger.

It is widely believed by staff that one nurse at the hospital died of COVID-19 in June, union officials and workers said. A hospital spokeswoman said she could not confirm because of health care privacy laws.

Hospital beds around Orange County are filling up amid a coronavirus resurgence that landed the county on a state watch list on Monday. By Wednesday, the number of people with COVID-19 at county hospitals reached 556 – it has almost doubled since June 1.

Fountain Valley Regional Hospital management, in a statement, said the practices currently in place are consistent with state and federal public health guidelines.

“Every patient who enters the hospital is screened for fever and other signs and symptoms of COVID-19. Testing is provided based on symptoms and physician order,” said the statement provided by hospital spokeswoman Jessica Chen.

All staff are screened and have their temperature checked when they come to work each day, hospital officials said, and they are provided with face shields, masks and other personal protective equipment to block exposure while working with COVID-19 patients.

But Joshua Jesus, a radiology technician who rallied with coworkers Thursday, said there are big holes in management’s prevention strategy, especially when it comes to contact tracing and alerting staff of potential exposure, which has lead to even more people having to quarantine.

“People have to work overtime, people are working extra shifts now,” said Jesus, who has worked for the hospital for seven years. “That goes to show their contact tracing isn’t working.

“We don’t feel protected, we feel like we’re not going to know anything that management finds out.”

In addition to better contact tracing within Fountain Valley Regional Hospital, workers want all newly admitted patients to be tested for COVID-19, to treat all patients as if they might be infected and to quarantine staff who might have been exposed, said Matt Artz, a spokesman for the National Union of Healthcare Workers.

The union represents the hospital’s nurse assistants, radiology technicians and dietary workers, among others.

Practices that improve on public health guidelines, such as assuming any patient could have COVID-19, already are in place at other hospitals, Artz said.

“You’ll have your own room until you know for sure if you’re COVID-positive,” he said. “That’s not the case at this hospital.”

Workers have raised their concerns with hospital management and human resources staff throughout the pandemic, Artz said, but policies haven’t changed.

Jesus said other Orange County hospitals are doing a better job of testing employees and patients, and they guarantee pay for staff who need to stay at home because of coronavirus exposure at work.

On Monday, Barbara Lewis, hospital division director for the workers’ union, wrote to Ken McFarland, the hospital’s chief executive, urging him to implement a host of new infection and source control practices, including to quarantine, test and provide paid leave to all employees who might have been exposed to the coronavirus.

McFarland had not yet responded, Artz said Thursday.

Source: Orange County Register

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