Photo by Muhammad-taha Ibrahim Note: Photo does not depict actual patient.
Looking back over events transpiring in 2022 feels a bit like observing a train wreck moments after it happens; there’s lots of smoke, twisted wreckage, and lives upended. But let’s take a bird’s eye view of OSHA compliance for perspective. Specifically, I’ll look at where we stand in the pandemic at the close of the year and provide an update on a tragic case involving a Houston dentist.
If you’re lucky enough to be in good health and/or have recovered from a mild case of COVID-19, count your blessings.
COVID is rapidly receding from the front pages. The numbers have certainly improved immensely since the Omicron-driven hump of infections in January and February; so much so that in late September, the CDC updated its infection control recommendations for healthcare facilities for the first time in over a year, easing off on some of its recommendations.
Lower Levels of Community Transmission*
CDC’s COVID Data Tracker page shows community transmission levels are at their lowest in months—*though some high population density counties in Texas; such as Denton, Collin, and Williamson, are still rated at the highest level of infections—the rating that still calls for special considerations in CDC’s infection control recommendations for healthcare settings.
Vaccinations, especially the new bivalent boosters, are still proven to greatly reduce the risk of infection or the severity of infection. According to the latest CDC statistics, people aged 12 and older who are vaccinated with the updated booster had a 14.9 times lower risk of dying from COVID and a 3.2 times lower risk of testing positive for COVID, compared to unvaccinated people. It’s pretty simple, folks. Get vaccinated and keep up to date.
Respiratory Protection Standard
Speaking of compliance and Covid-19, the total dollar amount of OSHA penalties resulting from complaints related to COVID through Oct. 30, 2022, is over $7,800,000.
After perusing through the list of several hundred investigations resulting in violations, I found the great majority were violations of 1910.134, the Respiratory Protection Standard.
In healthcare, that boils down to lack of a Respiratory Protection Program in place, including the use of N95 respirators when indicated. A word to the wise: there are still counties with high community transmission levels in which the CDC says that healthcare personnel should consider the use of N95 respirators during aerosol-generating procedures.
Case Involving Houston Dentist Moves to Criminal Phase
As I wrote in another recent article, the wheels of justice turn slowly.
In a case that unfolded in late September, a civil jury found a former Houston dentist responsible for severe brain injury to a then four-year old patient in 2016. The jury awarded the family of the patient over $95,000,000.
The former dentist was also indicted for intentionally and knowingly by omission caus[ing] serious bodily injury to a child by failing to seek and provide adequate medical attention. A first degree felony carries a prison sentence of 5–99 years. A criminal trial is pending.
The charges stemmed from a yearlong investigation after the child suffered Hypoxia which led to irreversible brain damage. According to court documents, the child was administered sedatives at Diamond Dental at 8:30 a.m. on Jan. 7, 2016, and suffered a seizure around 11:30 a.m. The child’s oxygen and temperature levels dropped to between 50% to 80% of normal levels. No call for medical assistance was made for more than four critical hours. “As a result, the victim has suffered permanent brain damage and will never lead a normal life,” stated Stan Clark, a Special Prosecutor-Harris County D.A. at the indictment.
Prior to the 2016 incident, the former dentist had been reprimanded by Texas State Board of Dental Examiners (TSBDE) in 2005 and 2012. The TSBDE revoked her license in November 2016.
Let’s wrap up with a reminder to get vaccinated, keep up-to-date on COVID, and to stay safe out there.