Monday, January 25, 2016
(PNN) QUESTIONS STILL ABOUND REGARDING TREATMENT OF POISONED SYNGENTA WORKERS
(PNN) Jan 25-- Syngenta spokespersons have refused to dispute accounts that say that the 10-12 Syngenta workers who were poisoned by the chlorpyrifos pesticide Lorsban last Wednesday were not just "treated and released" but were actually admitted to the hospital and that two were confined in the intensive care unit (ICU).
The claims were made in social media and in comments on a Civil Beat article, one of three articles that merely reported carefully worded public relations statements from Josh Uyehara, Syngenta station manager and Beth Tokioka, Community Outreach Manager at Syngenta.
Both Uyehara and Tokioka have refused to release any information on the injuries and/or treatment of the workers citing "HIPAA privacy rules" even though the law pertains only to information regarding individual patients, not general details of industrial accidents provided by employers, according to multiple health care sources and any reading of the HIPAA itself.
PNN has spoken to reliable sources who have spoken to eyewitnesses that said that, although, according to a statement from Tokioka that "(t)he workers were offered the opportunity for a medical evaluation if they wanted (and t)en (10) requested this and Syngenta provided transportation," an ambulance showed up to transport the workers and their services were refused, potentially exacerbating injuries by delaying medical treatment.
More importantly although both Uyehara and Tokioka stressed how some workers had their evaluation completed the same day and that three stayed overnight, none of the three media stories- in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (S-A), Honolulu Civil Beat and The Garden Island (TGI)- specifically pressed them to answer the questions regarding admission to the hospital, which would indicate serious injury, and/or admittance to the intensive case unit (ICU), which would indicate a life-threatening condition.
None of what can only be called Uyehara's "spin" on what occurred indicated how the workers- supposedly skilled and knowledgeable about safety- all wound up in the field that had been sprayed 20 hours previously instead of the required 24 hours, making it sound as if the workers sort of wandered into the field on their own.
None of the articles indicated whether they all collectively decided on their own to do so or whether higher-ups at Syngenta ordered them into the toxic field.
In the S-A Uyehara is characterized as having said that "within a few minutes of being on site, a manager informed the farmworkers that they should not have entered the area, ushered them out and offered immediate access to medical care."
Civil Beat said that the workers simply "walked onto a corn field only 20 hours after the application of chlorpyrifos" adding that "i)t’s unclear how many workers entered the field (and that) the incident is still under internal investigation."
The Kaua`i newspaper reported much of Uyehara's phone conversation with Editor Bill Buley as factual without attribution, but quoting Uyehara as saying the workers "strayed into" the field.
Buley also quoted Uyehara as saying the workers were there to "plant some identification tags" indicating that someone sent them there to do the work.
Buley further quoted Uyehara: “Unfortunately, some of the workers strayed into a field they were not scheduled to work and they were not supposed to be there. A field supervisor noticed they were there within a few minutes — perhaps 10 or 15 — and the employees were quickly told to leave the area."
Buley told a caller on Friday that he was fully unaware of the event at that point in time.
Many of the field workers are reportedly foreign, usually on three month contracts to avoid providing them with health insurance and most do not speak English. Many reports contend that most field workers have never read "the label"- which lists the laws regarding application of restricted use pesticides as well as safety information. Witnesses have seen some leave work wearing the same clothes they worked in, some greeting their children at the gates.
HIPAA privacy rules provide that the right to privacy is an individual one and restricts health care workers who treat individuals or have access to their records from releasing medical information specifically about that patient. When challenged on this by PNN Tokioka simply said, in a comment on the Civil Beat article, "My understanding of HIPAA is different from yours."
After 48 hours she still has not responded to the followup question: "Can you confirm or deny that up to 10 of the injured workers were actually admitted to the hospital and two were admitted to ICU?"
Because of the sensitivity of the information provided, PNN has chosen to protect the identities of those who provided information for this article.