Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mandatory flu shots

I'd like to address the issue of the new Backus Hospital policy on mandatory flu shots.  I realize that whenever you make something "mandatory" it makes people uneasy.  There's something very "big brother" about it.
I also understand that some people have a real belief that the flu shot either causes them to become sick or at least doesn't prevent illness, and some may have an true allergic reaction to it or medical condition that precludes them getting it.
Others have religious reasons for not wanting to be vaccinated.
I understand the these reasons and support those who have them.
I will also tell you that I believe in getting the shot and have already done so myself.

The hospital has instituted a new policy this year.  In short, you must get the injection or wear a mask whenever you are in a patient care area.  In addition, if you do not wish to receive the shot, you must have a medical or religious exemption. (the forms are available on line and must be submitted by October 31 to Employee Health).  The forms will be reviewed by the Hospital's Review committee.  If the Hospital Review committee disagrees with the exemption, the employee will be required to be vaccinated.
The Hospital has always had the right to introduce new policies such as this.  Under our contract, they retain this right.
Under our contract, we have the right to "effects bargaining" on new policies.  We can bargain the impact on us.
So, bargaining unit nurses will have the right to an appeal, should the committee deny their exemption. 
If an exemption is denied, we will file a grievance.  We will meet and try to resolve the grievance and if unable, we will bring the case to an independent arbitrator (agreeable to both sides) for a final ruling.  While waiting for the decision, the nurse will continue to work and will wear a mask.
Should the hospital committee or the arbitrator uphold the exemption, then that nurse will not be required to be vaccinated but will need to wear a mask.
The CDC has some good information on preventing the flu.
I wish you good health.