The California Hospital Association (CHA) is engaged with hospitals and state and local public health officials in a voluntary statewide effort to ensure that all hospital workers -- including registered nurses -- are vaccinated against the H1N1 flu virus.
"Hospital caregivers are on the front lines in responding to the H1N1 pandemic," said CHA president and CEO C. Duane Dauner. "Although no one yet knows how rapidly the H1N1 flu may spread or how serious the illness may become, it's essential that the nurses and other clinicians who work in our community hospitals be given the highest level of protection possible against the virus so that they can continue caring for patients. The best protection against the H1N1 flu is to be vaccinated."
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that "vaccines are the most important tool we have for preventing influenza." Based on this expert advice, Dauner urges the California Nurses Association to join with CHA and state and public health officials to promote vaccinations to all health care workers. Additionally, hospitals and nurses should work together in a public education campaign aimed at helping to stop the spread of the disease.
Dauner calls upon the California Nurses Association (CNA) to stop using the H1N1 pandemic as a smokescreen to pursue its union-organizing agenda. CNA yesterday announced a one-day strike for Oct. 30 at 39 hospitals across California, Nevada and Arizona. Although CNA claims that the strike is about H1N1 preparedness, the labor union has publicly acknowledged that it is in contract negotiations or organizing campaigns at these same hospitals. CNA did not accuse any other hospitals of being unprepared.
"How can CNA promote a strike against three hospital organizations during the flu season?" Dauner asked. "Protecting patients is about more than bargaining rhetoric. It is about truly putting the interests of patients first. Taking nurses out on strike at the very time that hospitals are being flooded with patients needing care is unconscionable."
Dauner noted that the CNA is well aware that hospitals are "implementing a multitude of measures" to respond appropriately to the unprecedented H1N1 pandemic -- including offering the H1N1 vaccine to all workers as the vaccine becomes available; sending employees home who appear at work with flu symptoms; isolating patients; revising visitation policies to include such things as screening, restricting hours and requiring the use of masks; implementing special triage procedures; developing educational materials and messages; and adopting special testing services.
Hospitals are striving to provide employees with appropriate personal protective equipment. However, a major challenge is the documented shortage of N95 respirator masks. Although many hospitals have some supplies of N95 masks on hand, the manufacturing shortfall has prevented hospitals from obtaining the number of masks that are required.
"Hospitals are doing all they can to obtain the supplies and equipment they need, but there is only so much hospitals can do," Dauner noted. "The nurses union should call a halt to the disruptive strike and instead focus its resources on working collaboratively with hospitals and public health officials to put the needs of patients first."