Now in the calmer aftermath of the H1N1 case spike, a recent HealthLeaders article  reports on how the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) was able to substantially increase vaccination rates with workers among its 163-hospitals. Here are some highlights from a teleconference with Jonathan Perlin, MD, HCA’s president of clinical services and chief medical officer:
- The 2009 H1N1 pandemic was a good reminder that, historically, inadequate healthcare worker vaccination is an often overlooked patient safety issue.
- Having healthcare workers stay home when they feel sick is not sufficient to protect patients as studies have shown that infected workers may have few or no flu symptoms or that individuals can still transmit the flu 24 hours before showing symptoms.
- The HCA influenza prevention strategy policy required that employees who could infect—or become infected—by a patient receive the seasonal influenza vaccine, wear a surgical mask in patient care areas, or be reassigned to non-patient contact roles.
- A group representing HCA emergency preparedness, infection prevention, human resources, legal, pharmacy, communications, and supply was formed to implement non-vaccine strategies, such as cough etiquette, hand hygiene, cleaning techniques, and the “hazards of presenteeism.”
- Out of the 140,599 employees offered influenza vaccination, 96% accepted.
- Reason for declining immunizations were: allergy (12%), contraindicated (7%), fear (4%), pregnant (1%), religion (3%), and no reason given (73%).
- “The response from our employees was overwhelmingly positive. Our employees have embraced it as a patient safety issue,” Perlin said.
For more details, read Hospitals Make Employee Flu Vaccinations a Patient Safety Issue .