BOSTON (AP) - The nurses’ union at one of Boston’s major teaching hospitals has sued to block a policy that would require nurses to get flu shots.
The Massachusetts Nurses Association’s lawsuit against Brigham and Women’s Hospital filed this week in Suffolk Superior Court comes as state public health officials are leaning on hospitals to improve flu vaccination rates among health care workers.
Health care workers can transmit the flu to already vulnerable patients, the state says.
Brigham and Women’s mandated vaccinations because its worker vaccination rate of 77 percent is far lower than the city’s other teaching hospitals. Efforts to boost the rate, including free shots available around the clock, have fallen short, hospital spokeswoman Erin McDonough told The Boston Globe (https://bit.ly/1BaGRew ).
The union, which represents 3,200 Brigham and Women’s nurses, said in the suit that the hospital’s yet-to-be-implemented mandate, which could lead to termination of employees who refuse vaccination, violates a state regulation that bars hospitals from requiring employees to receive a vaccine.
“Every employee has a right to decline,” said David Schildmeier, a spokesman for the nurses’ union. “All they have to do is sign a form. They don’t have to give a reason.”
McDonough said Brigham and Women’s officials “believe that we have interpreted the statute correctly, but will await clarification before implementing a mandatory policy.”
The Massachusetts Hospital Association has long advocated mandatory flu vaccination for health care workers, and many hospitals where nurses are not represented by the union have such policies.
“Hospitals that have the MNA have a much harder time getting their vaccination rates up,” organization President Lynn Nicholas said. In filing suit the union “is putting a pet peeve of theirs above the safety and well-being of the patients they serve, their families, visitors to the hospital, and their colleagues.”
Information from: The Boston Globe, https://www.bostonglobe.com
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