H1N1: Nurses protest in CA, while regulators push mandatory vaccine in NY

Hospital Safety Insider, August 12, 2009

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Controversy is swirling this month around protection measures for healthcare workers from the H1N1 swine flu virus.
The developments included a rally in San Francisco last week organized by the California Nurses Association. The participants, many of whom wore surgical masks during the rally, protested the firing of a nurse infected by H1N1 allegedly because she complained about inadequate safety standards at University of California/San Francisco Medical Center.
The medical center said it fired the nurse because of unspecified job performance factors.
Meanwhile, the New York State Hospital Review and Planning Council—which falls under the state Department of Health—has approved an emergency action to require all healthcare workers to annually receive a flu vaccine.
The order will become mandatory as soon as it is filed with the New York secretary of state, which could occur as early as this week.
The rule will apply to:
  • All medical staff and others who have direct contact with patients
  • Staff members that, if they are infected with the flu, could expose patients to the illness
The rule exempts workers who don’t have contact with patients and people whose health would suffer from receiving the vaccine.
“Voluntary programs to increase [healthcare worker] influenza vaccination rates have not resulted in adequate vaccination levels,” the State Hospital Review and Planning Council wrote. The council also noted that healthcare workers often already receive one-time mandatory measles and rubella vaccinations as terms of employment.
The New York State Nurses Association opposes the mandatory vaccination.

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