NY SHRPC: 'Get Flu Shot' OR 'Get Fired'
The State Hospital Review and Planning Council earlier this month adopted a new emergency regulation that requires New York State hospital workers to get the flu shot or get fired, and that it be a requirement for employment.
Hospitals are quickly trying to assemble new workplace policies to comply with the regulation, and those that have been put in place threaten disciplinary action and even termination if workers, from janitors and food service workers to doctors and nurses, refuse to get the shots. The policy affects about 25,000 people in the region.
Albany Medical Center, the region's leading hospital, sent out announcements to workers earlier this week saying employees had to get flu shots by Oct. 16. Spokesman Gregory McGarry said the hospital may take "corrective action" against employees if they don't comply, although he declined to get into specifics about what type of penalties they would face.
The hospital, which will pay for the vaccine, is insisting that almost all of its 7,000 employees get the shots, even those who work at off-site buildings such as the finance center in Delmar. McGarry said that even those workers spend time at the main hospital buildings for meetings.
"It's anyone who has contact with patients or providers," McGarry said. "There may be rare exceptions."
St. Peter's Hospital in Albany is also developing a set of strict guidelines as it seeks to get all of its 4,500 employees shots by Dec. 1.
"There are very few exceptions," said spokesman Elmer Streeter. "We will be requiring it of all our employees as a condition of employment."
Workers will be suspended for five days initially if they do not get the shot. After that, they have another five days to comply before facing possible termination.
The only exemptions are for personnel who have a medical contraindication and for workers, such as those offsite, who would have no contact with patients and only incidental contact with direct-care staff. The language for the exemptions is available in the regulation.
The Department of Health (DOH) officials have said the regulation could apply to provision of the H1N1 (swine) flu vaccine series, in addition to seasonal flu shots, should the H1N1 vaccine become available in sufficient supplies to cover all health care workers. Health care workers, along with school-age children, pregnant women, and immuno-compromised adults, are among the highest priorities for receiving novel H1N1 flu shots when they become available in September or October.
DOH is moving forward with the regulation over objections of the New York State Nurses Association, which spoke against the mandate at the SHRPC committee hearing, urging instead increased education to improve voluntary vaccination rates.
In 2006 the Washington State Nurses Association successfully beat back an attempt by Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle that required all nurse to be vaccinated for seasonal influenza.
The situation in New York, however, is different in that it is state initiated.
For influenza pandemic plans and an influenza vaccination declination form, go to the OSHA Healthcare Advisor Tools page.
For the latest data on flu activity in the United States, or to learn about flu basics, or what to do if you get sick, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Suggested additional reading: Mandatory Vaccinations: Precedent and Current Laws
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Oak Lawn, Illinois, United States