Salmon Creek chiropractor’s office subject of complaints before COVID-19 exposure – The Columbian

17September 2020

Three months prior to Bridge Chiropractic in Salmon Creek exposed more than 300 people to coronavirus, grievances started to trickle in to the state Department of Health.

The first complaint came on June 19 from Vancouver resident Maya Heim, who was worried when she checked out the office for a massage and saw just one out of more than six workers wearing a mask, according to Heim's grievance.

At that time, the department selected “technical support” and education instead of an investigation or discipline for Bridge Chiropractic, which, according to its site, becomes part of Chiro One Wellness Centers, a business based in Illinois– Bridge and Chiro One agents have not responded to ask for comment.

Two more complaints followed in July, which triggered an investigation by Washington's Chiropractic Quality Assurance Commission. Another grievance was filed in late August, the fourth and last complaint before Clark County Public Health announced that a Bridge worker contaminated with coronavirus had actually exposed 300 patients and 14 associates to the virus over the course of four days recently (Sept. 8 to 11).

In a Wednesday press rundown, Clark County Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick stated mask-wearing was “inconsistent” by patients and personnel throughout the direct exposure period. Public health authorities have repeatedly suggested people wear masks when in distance to individuals outside their family to prevent disease transmission.

State Department of Health spokeswoman Kristen Maki said in an email that the Department of Health decided Thursday to expand the examination into Bridge due to the fact that of the huge exposure.

In a phone interview Thursday early morning, Heim said she filed her problem with the state Department of Health on June 19.

That was the same day Heim checked out the chiropractic doctor's office for the first time to get a massage. In Heim's problem to the Department of Health, a copy of which she supplied to The Columbian, Heim she said she wasn't asked any COVID-19 screening concerns upon arrival at the chiropractic doctor's office.

She also discovered that the majority of staff were not wearing masks.

Heim said she saw a sign in the center that day that stated face coverings were optional for staff, and that clients ought to ask staff to use a mask if that was their choice.

The employee who provided Heim a massage that day was the only staff member Heim saw using a mask, she stated in the phone interview. She said other staff were wearing masks around their necks.

“It was like an alternate universe,” Heim stated.

Heim raised issues about mask-wearing with one employee, she said, and that staff member informed her independently that they had voiced those same issues to management, however that management decreased to implement mask-wearing.

An “staff member independently complained to me … about a lack of protective procedures after I pointed out surprise at the overall lack of basic safety measures at a medical center,” Heim's problem checks out.

When Gov. Jay Inslee allowed non-urgent medical treatments to resume in May in Washington, the governor mandated medical centers such as Bridge have sufficient personal protective equipment on hand for personnel to utilize.

Inslee's pronouncement also mentions that “visitors who are able must use a mask or other suitable face covering at all times while in the health care center as part of universal source control.”

In early June, before Heim's grievance, Inslee needed all staff members in Washington to use face-coverings. In late June, face-coverings became necessary in indoor public areas for everyone.

On July 8, the Department of Health responded to her grievance in an e-mail.

“The report was closed without an investigation or disciplinary action as we initially provided technical assistance to the company, reminding them of their commitments to comply with Governor-issued proclamations,” the e-mail reads.

Maki said the Department of Health declined to examine at that time because it was the first COVID-19 problem the department had actually received about Bridge. Maki stated the department is attempting to use education around compliance prior to taking further action.

“We have found that the majority of service noncompliance is unintentional; the technical assistance helps educate the business to come into compliance,” Maki stated in an e-mail. “If the department gets subsequent grievances, or business interacts intentional noncompliance, it will elevate the complaint as proper.”

Heim stated her main issue at that time was the safety of personnel. She was also stressed that customers would hesitate to ask personnel to use masks.

Heim feels sorry for the Department of Health and local business when it comes to mask enforcement. She understands the nuances at play, she stated, however was dissatisfied that a medical facility, which runs with close contact and touching, was not following statewide guidelines.

“I comprehend that the state does not want to make a practice of aggressively mentioning companies who need time to understand their compliance,” Heim stated. “I don't think that is the case with this organization.”


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