Speaking of the Flu
While we're on the subject, as temperatures drop, the air becomes drier and people start to congregate indoors more frequently, flu season starts to ramp up. Conditions are becoming ripe for transmission of the virus, and hospitals are places where we really cannot afford to spread the flu. There are a lot of individuals whose immune systems are less able to cope with infection, so even illnesses that might be mild in a healthy individual may become life-threatening. Whether the patients are walk-ins or in for long term care, children, adults or the elderly, it is vital for hospital employees to be vaccinated against the flu.
I'm not just talking about the doctors and nurses, here. I mean everyone that works in the hospital. At the very least, anyone who spends any amount of time in a patient area (waiting room, exam room, elevators, hallways, stairwells, lobbies) should be immunized if they have no medical reasons to the contrary. Hospitals and their employees should take steps to protect the health and well-being of their patients, and that includes taking measures to reduce the risk of infection.
I decided to take a look online to see if I could find any recent reports of vaccine rates among hospital employees and stumbled upon a survey of Maryland Hospital Healthcare Worker Influenza Vaccination (PDF). This was a self-reported, web-based survey of Maryland hospitals looking at total number of employees who received a vaccine, number that exempted out for medical reasons, number that exempted out for religious reasons and number that declined immunization but did not provide a reason, compared to the total number of employees at the hospital. Some hospitals had mandatory immunization policies with consequences for non-compliance (such as loss of privileges or even being fired), some had mandatory policies but no consequences for non-compliance and still others had no vaccination policy.
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Good charts, graphs, and actual data there as opposed to simple assertions.