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Dozens suspended after employees refuse flu shots

Imagine this ultimatum: Get a flu shot in two weeks or lose your job. What would you do? The employee flu shot saga strikes again, but this time in Pennsylvania.

The Abington Health System in Pennsylvania has suspended over four dozen employees without pay [1] after they refused to get the flu shot, reported The Intelligencer.  The health system includes Abington Memorial Hospital and Lansdale Hospital, who are both among the 60 U.S. healthcare systems that require all employees to get the seasonal flu shot.

This policy in Abington, PA went into effect in September, and requires all of the employees, medical students, volunteers, and vendors who provide services to the hospital to get the shot; there are over 8,000 of these workers, reported The Intelligencer.

There are reasons why employers wouldn’t want to get the flu shot. Meghan Patton, vice president for human resources of the Abington Health System, told The Intelligencer that Abington Memorial Hospital exempted less than 25 people from the shot due to medical reasons or religious reasons.

“Some people did just forget,” she added. “Some people still had some (health) concerns they hadn’t clarified. We had employees who were very fearful (of needles),” she said.

But sometimes it goes further, and lawsuits are filed. OSHA Healthcare Advisor reported on an employee at AnMed Hospital in Anderson, SC who filed a lawsuit against the hospital after she was told she’d be fired if she didn’t receive the flu shot [2]. The employer was a cashier at the hospital. The hospital stated they were only trying to avoid the spread of infection to patients and staff.

On Monday, November 15, over 120 Abington Memorial Hospital employers had not received the vaccination yet, but as of Thursday, November 18, 56 employees were suspended, according to The Intelligencer.

Abington Memorial Hospital has been in the spotlight before on mandatory infection control policies. The hospital hired hand hygiene spies in 2008 to track the workers’ hand washing [3]. While the first survey showed a compliance of 34%, in 2009, compliance was up to 88%, according to an OSHA Healthcare Advisor post.

With the recent uproars of employers getting flu shots, what actions could be taken to better enforce this? Or should it be enforced at all? Let us know in our comment section.