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UIHC employees don’t need vaccination

BY REGINA ZILBERMINTS | NOVEMBER 03, 2009 7:20 AM

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UI Hospitals and Clinics employees will not be required to receive flu vaccinations, a neutral arbitrator ruled Monday.

The decision applies to vaccines against both the seasonal and H1N1 flu.

The ruling comes as a result of a Sept. 8 injunction filed by the Service Employees International Union Local 199 to prevent UIHC officials from implementing a plan that would have required all employees, students, and volunteers to be vaccinated against the seasonal flu.

Union and hospital officials reached an agreement Sept. 23 — pending the arbitrator’s ruling — that exempted union members from the disciplinary action employees faced if they refused to be vaccinated.

“UIHC leaders are moving forward to review options for protecting patients on the serious public-health threat posed by influenza following today’s decision,” said UIHC spokesman Tom Moore.

“Hospital leaders are disappointed by the decision given its potential effect on the safety of patients.”

Though the initial agreement applied only to union members, the arbitrator’s decision will apply to everyone at the hospital, regardless of union affiliation.

Union President Cathy Glasson said she is pleased with the decision, but union officials are still urging all members to be vaccinated. However, she said, they should not be penalized for their decision to refuse.

Glasson said the union is dealing with similar issues elsewhere, specifically citing injunctions filed against several California hospitals that have yet to be resolved.

Union officials have contended that a vaccination program must accompany a comprehensive infectious-disease-prevention effort, which Glasson said UIHC still lacks. She said union officials are working with UIHC leaders to develop such a program including better health education for employees.

“We are hoping it’s an eye opener for hospital officials to realize that vaccination is not the only way to prevent the spread of the flu,” Glasson said.

Moore, however, pointed to the awareness campaign already in place at the hospital that has raised vaccination-compliance rates from the mid-60s to the current rate. The hospital educates its employees and already provides respirators when appropriate, he said.

UIHC has a compliance rate of 84 percent — equal to last year’s — and more employees may be vaccinated when additional orders of the vaccine arrive this month, Moore said. No numbers are available on compliance rates in the union.


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