Detroit Healthcare Institutions Require Flu Vaccinations for Employees Who Work in Patient-Care Areas

Henry Ford Health System, Detroit Medical Center and the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center are requiring employees who work in patient-care areas, including high-risk areas, to receive an annual flu vaccination or wear a surgical mask while working in close proximity to patients.

The requirement, which takes effect with flu vaccinations this fall, represents a significant change in vaccination compliance at the three health care institutions as a patient safety measure to protect patients, employees and visitors against the H1N1 virus and two other seasonal flu strains.

Previously, the healthcare institutions made getting the flu vaccination strictly voluntary for employees. Now compliance is required by either receiving the vaccination or wearing a surgical mask.

About 5 percent to 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the seasonal flu and roughly 36,000 die from it every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While the decision to change the compliance requirement was done individually and will be implemented separately, Henry Ford, DMC and Karmanos agreed to a joint announcement as a show of alliance for such an important patient safety and employee safety issue.

The compliance requirement applies to physicians, nurses, students, transporters, volunteers, vendors, contractors, housekeepers, clerical, lab and dietary staff, and others who work in patient-care areas in the hospital, outpatient facilities and home care services at Henry Ford, DMC and Karmanos. This includes high-risk areas like the intensive care unit, emergency department and-labor and delivery.

At Henry Ford, all patient-care areas are included in this requirement. At DMC, high-risk areas will be determined by its Corporate Infection Control Office. At Karmanos, all patient-care areas are considered high risk because of its unique patient population.

Vaccinated employees at the three institutions will receive a flu shot sticker to be placed on their identification badge to demonstrate they've been vaccinated.

An opt-out measure will allow employees who work in patient-care areas to decline the vaccination for medical, religious or personal reasons. However, those who opt-out are required to wear a surgical mask while working within six feet of patients in a patient-care area throughout the flu season, which typically runs fall through spring.

Karmanos is requiring employee compliance by Nov. 1. Henry Ford and the DMC will determine their compliance deadline predicated on flu activity in Michigan. Compliance will be monitored according to each of their institutional policies.

While employees who work in non patient-care areas at Henry Ford, DMC and Karmanos won't be required to receive the vaccination, they are advised to get it to protect themselves, their colleagues and family members from contracting the flu. Examples of non-patient care areas are financial services and information technology.

Henry Ford, DMC and Karmanos join a growing trend of U.S. healthcare systems and hospitals that are requiring compliance for flu vaccinations. Last November, the National Patient Safety Foundation endorsed universal immunization of healthcare workers, noting the "correlation between mandatory flu vaccination and lower patient infection rates in hospitals demonstrates that this is a patient safety imperative."

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