ALBANY — Workers at Capital Region hospitals are going to have to get a flu shot this year or face losing their jobs.
The requirement is part of a new emergency regulation adopted earlier this month by the State Hospital Review and Planning Council that requires that all hospital workers get the flu vaccine — 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.
Public health officials across the world are gearing up for the flu season this year with special urgency, especially because of concerns over the H1N1 “swine” flu virus. The new state regulations do not cover the swine flu vaccine, only the seasonal flu vaccine.
The New York State Nurses Association, which represents 37,000 nurses in the state, has opposed mandatory policies, and still does, says spokesman Mark Genovese.
“We think it should not be mandatory,” Genovese said. “But we of course urge them to protect themselves.”
Northeast Health in Troy, the organization that owns Albany Memorial Hospital and Samaritan Hospital in Troy, is working toward new guidelines.
“We’re still in the process of finalizing our policy on that,” said spokeswoman Angela Yu. “Obviously, we are trying to comply with the health department rules.”
Mandatory Flu Vaccines for Hospital Personnel Set to Take Effect
The State Hospital Review and Planning Council (SHRPC) Thursday approved an emergency regulation to require influenza vaccinations for health care personnel. The mandate approved applies to all personnel working in hospitals, diagnostic and treatment centers, certified home health agencies, long-term home health care programs, acquired immune deficiency syndrome home care programs, licensed home care service agencies, and hospices. Nursing home employees are not covered under the regulation.
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 measure officially becomes effective upon filing with the Department of State in the coming days, and facilities should be prepared to offer the vaccines to their employees at no cost for the upcoming flu season.
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.
HANYS is seeking guidance from DOH on how facilities need to document instances where there are medical contraindications or other refusals to receive the vaccine. The regulation includes a mandate requiring facilities to report the status of their immunization efforts annually to DOH.
A separate measure that would require the immunizations for nursing home personnel was under consideration earlier this year in the State Legislature, because it requires a statutory change.
List Of USA States Which Have Implemented Legal Actions In Response To The H1N1 virus
New York : According to the CDC, the following states have implemented legal actions in response to the H1N1 virus:
Florida – the Florida surgeon general suspended distribution permit requirements Florida statutes to allow wholesale distribution of Tamiflu and Relenza. The state has also distributed a series of blank quarantine order forms, including a voluntary home quarantine agreement, a quarantine to residence order, a quarantine to residence order (non-compliance), a quarantine to facility order, quarantine detention order, quarantine of facility order, building quarantine closure order and area quarantine closure order.
Massachusetts – Massachusetts lists its own procedures for isolation and quarantine.
North Carolina – The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services released a draft isolation order that would provide for imprisonment for up to two years and pretrial detention without bail for any citizen who fails to comply with an isolation order.
Washington – Washington grants authority to local health officers to issue emergency detention orders causing citizens to be immediately and involuntarily isolated or quarantined for up to 10 days.
In addition, governors and health commissioners in the following states have declared a state of emergency since April following concerns about the H1N1 virus: California, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Clearly this has nothing to do with public health and the qualitative ethical practice of medicine. What about all the people who already had swine flu? Those people, who have already built natural immunity, if forced to quarantine in close quarters with a bunch of other people who may have other types of infectious diseases such as seasonal flu, etc., then become exposed to other infectious diseases and are at greater health risk. This seems like a great plan to help SPREAD whatever disease(s) they want to spread!