COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Nationwide Children’s Hospital failed to protect its employees from patients’ violent outbursts, the U.S. Department of Labor announced Thursday.
Following a six-month investigation triggered by a November complaint, the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration said the hospital’s newly created Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion failed to prevent patients from physically assaulting staff, including nurses and mental health professionals. A citation and $18,000 fine were issued against the hospital on Monday.
“Behavioral healthcare workers can be exposed to risks when treating patients who suffer with conditions that can lead to violent outbursts,” Columbus-area OSHA Director Larry Johnson said in a statement. “Unfortunately, Nationwide Children’s Hospital failed to take the necessary precautions that could have prevented their employees from being injured.”
The investigation, launched in late November after the pavilion was accused of unsafe working conditions, also revealed that the pavilion failed to properly document employee injuries. In some cases, staff were groped, kicked, punched and scratched — resulting in concussions, lacerations, bruises, sprains and other injuries, the department said.
Open since early 2020, the pavilion on the city’s South Side provides acute behavioral health services and intensive outpatient programs. Nationwide Children’s as a whole — the second-largest pediatric hospital in the U.S. — has more than 1.5 million annual patient visits at 68 facilities across Ohio and the world.
Spokesperson Michelle Fong said in an email that the hospital is reviewing OSHA’s findings and will work with the labor department on its findings. Nationwide Children’s, she said, abides by extensive safety policies that are continually reviewed and updated by staff.
“The youth mental health crisis has highlighted the complex challenges for behavioral health providers,” Fong said. “Our priority is to provide the highest quality care for the children we serve in the safest possible environment for our employees, patients, and families.”
Among the department’s recommendations for the pavilion include developing a written workplace violence prevention program, establishing post-incident procedures to ensure staff are assessed for injuries and preventing patients from using furniture as weapons.
The hospital has 15 business days to comply with the department’s citation, request an informal conference with the area’s OSHA director or contest the findings.