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A Providence, RI, doctor faces thousands of dollars in fines for allegedly falling short on COVID-19 protections and knowingly exposing his patients and staff to the coronavirus.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Anthony Farina, MD, for exposing patients and staff to COVID-19 while he was ill and failing to take necessary pandemic precautions in his offices.
An investigation was launched after six employees tested positive for COVID-19 in the fall of 2020.
Farina, an internal medicine specialist who graduated from Brown University School of Medicine in 1991, was fined $136,532 for failing to use safety measures against the coronavirus, including cleaning and disinfecting, proper air filtration, barriers between workspaces, and symptom screening of employees. The order alleges he did not mandate contact tracing or quarantine periods for employees who had been exposed to COVID-positive patients.
The investigation into Farina’s actions is part of a larger OSHA crackdown on companies that put workers at risk of contracting COVID-19; a national emphasis program launched March 12.
“This employer placed workers and others at risk of contracting the coronavirus. Employers have a responsibility to isolate workers and themselves if they show symptoms of the virus,” Providence-area OSHA Director Robert Sestito said in a June 15 statement. “Protecting employees and patients by implementing timely and effective safeguards and controls to minimize exposure is critical to mitigating the spread of the virus.”
Farina owns and operates North Providence Urgent Care Inc., North Providence Primary Care Associates Inc., Center of New England Urgent Care Inc., and Center of New England Primary Care Inc. He was suspended on Thursday from practicing medicine until further order of the Department of Health or the Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline.
“The agency determined the owner continued to interact with workers and did not fully implement safeguards after he exhibited symptoms of the virus and later tested positive,” according to an OSHA news release.
Staff reported that Farina continued to work around colleagues after knowingly contracting the coronavirus and continued to see patients while wearing an N95 mask below his nose. Farina said he did not contract the virus until weeks later, and that he had a sinus infection during the time in question, according to the 21-page order.
Farina also disputed the allegations in a statement released by his lawyer, Dennis Grieco II, published in The Providence Journal:
“I strongly deny the false allegations made by the Rhode Island Department of Health that I at any time threatened the health of my patients. As a doctor, my first responsibility is to do no harm, and I take that oath extremely seriously,” he said.
“I want to reassure all of my patients that I would never place them in harm. I am appealing RIDOH’s suspension of my license and am confident I will be thoroughly cleared of these false and misleading allegations.”
OSHA.gov: “US Department of Labor cites Rhode Island medical practice, owner for exposing employees to coronavirus in North Providence, West Greenwich.”
The Providence Journal: “Health director finds RI doctor deliberately exposed patients to COVID.”