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OSHA Opens Investigation At Lawrence + Memorial Hospital

Joe Amon
Connecticut Public/NENC

Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London is the latest Connecticut health care facility to draw the attention of federal workplace safety inspectors during the coronavirus pandemic. Officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration opened an investigation one week after a certified nursing assistant who worked at the hospital died from complications related to COVID-19.

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In May, members of AFT Local 5123, a health care workers union representing more than 800 employees at Lawrence + Memorial, gathered to celebrate the life of Elva Graveline, who died at 52 from COVID-19 complications. 

Connie Fields, the union’s president, said the day Graveline died, the hospital posted a sign that said “Heroes work here.”

“Well heroes died there too,” Fields said. “We have got to make sure we continue to fight for Elva.”

A spokesperson for L + M confirmed that Graveline worked there as a certified nursing assistant but declined to comment on her death and would not say whether the OSHA investigation was related.

As Connecticut Public has previously reported, OSHA officials are investigating the death or hospitalization of at least three other health care workers in Connecticut eldercare facilities

All of the investigations were opened after Gov. Ned Lamont declared public health and civil preparedness emergencies due to COVID-19 on March 10. 

The investigation at L + M is Connecticut’s first OSHA investigation into a worker death or hospitalization at a general medical hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a federal database.

A spokesperson for the Connecticut Hospital Association, which represents 27 of Connecticut’s acute care hospitals, said its organization doesn’t keep data on hospital workers who have died after contracting COVID-19. 

In April, an employee of Hartford HealthCare died after testing positive for COVID-19, according to Ajay Kumar, Hartford HealthCare’s chief clinical officer. 

A spokesperson for Hartford HealthCare declined to release details about the death, including where the individual worked or how the person got sick.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story said the investigation at L + M is Connecticut’s first hospital-related OSHA investigation amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s Connecticut’s first hospital-related OSHA investigation into a worker death or hospitalization during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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