Most hospitals in Washington state – including all six in Spokane – are requiring staff to get immunized against the flu or take other hospital-approved measures to protect patients against infectious disease.
The requirements are part of a self-imposed agreement reached through the Washington State Hospital Association. It affects 94 of 98 hospitals.
“We’re the first in the country to undertake such a step,” said Cassie Sauer, spokeswoman for the hospital trade group. The staff includes everyone from physicians and nurses to housekeepers and receptionists.
The influenza virus is blamed for 50,000 deaths across the country each year.
The recent brush with swine flu brought some hospital vaccination polices under scrutiny as patient numbers soared and the flu spread.
The hospitals will provide the vaccines free of charge to employees. For employees refusing vaccinations, hospitals will require them to wear masks while working with patients, re-assign them to jobs with no patient contact or send them home during an influenza outbreak.
The six Spokane hospitals participating are Deaconess Medical Center, Valley Hospital and Medical Center, Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, Providence Holy Family Hospital, St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute and Shriners Hospital for Children.