Thursday, August 30, 2012

Flu shot bill lacks penalty for health workers - Sacramento Bee

Health care workers who don't get a flu shot wouldn't have to wear a mask under an amended bill that state lawmakers sent to the governor on Thursday.

The initial bill was designed to encourage health care workers to get influenza vaccines so they don't infect patients. But the California Nurses Association opposed a provision requiring unvaccinated medical employees to wear surgical masks while seeing patients during flu season.

The Senate passed the amended SB1318 after the provision was stripped away by the Assembly earlier this week. It is not clear how the bill would be enforced without the mask requirement.

The decision sparked finger-pointing between hospitals and the politically powerful nurses union.

The California Hospital Association blamed the union for blocking the mask provision. Hospitals opposed the final bill mainly because the mask provision was removed. The union is lobbying for flu vaccine incentives to be collectively bargained.

"We think wearing masks is the right thing to do for the patients," hospital association spokeswoman Jan Emerson-Shea said after the vote. "How do hospitals enforce this otherwise? ... We think the nurses' union is putting public health at risk by making that an issue for collective bargaining."

Union spokesman Chuck Idelson said the association is neutral on the overall bill and supports its requirement that 90 percent of health care workers be vaccinated by 2015.

"We do encourage people to get vaccinations. We don't think it should be mandatory, we don't think it should be punitive," Idelson said. "There are people who have specific health care concerns about masks, about vaccinations."

The measure on Gov. Jerry Brown's desk now requires health officials to develop a policy that will let hospitals reach that 90 percent vaccination goal. The requirement would apply to about 4,500 California health care facilities.

Dr. Charity Thoman, deputy health officer in Santa Barbara County, said in an email that only 63 percent of health care workers in California currently get the influenza vaccine - despite the dangers demonstrated by the H1N1 pandemic in 2009.

H1N1 spurred worldwide concern when the virus initially appeared to have a high mortality rate. Later investigation found the strain was deadly mostly for those with complicating circumstances. It is now considered a seasonal flu and included in the flu vaccine.

The California Medical Association, which sought the legislation, said the amended version will be effective.

It would require health facilities to begin education programs in January to encourage employees to be vaccinated. Employees who decline would be required to follow whatever steps their employer takes to prevent them from spreading the flu.

The bill's author, Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, said she is satisfied that public health officials will develop powerful incentives for health workers to be vaccinated - incentives that might include the mask requirement.

"I think it's one of several tools and the most effective," Wolk said. "The masks could still be part of it, or not."

What You Should Know About Comments on is happy to provide a forum for reader interaction, discussion, feedback and reaction to our stories. However, we reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments or ban users who can't play nice. (See our full terms of service here.)

Here are some rules of the road:

• Keep your comments civil. Don't insult one another or the subjects of our articles. If you think a comment violates our guidelines click the "Report Abuse" link to notify the moderators. Responding to the comment will only encourage bad behavior.

• Don't use profanities, vulgarities or hate speech. This is a general interest news site. Sometimes, there are children present. Don't say anything in a way you wouldn't want your own child to hear.

• Do not attack other users; focus your comments on issues, not individuals.

• Stay on topic. Only post comments relevant to the article at hand.

• Do not copy and paste outside material into the comment box.

• Don't repeat the same comment over and over. We heard you the first time.

• Do not use the commenting system for advertising. That's spam and it isn't allowed.

• Don't use all capital letters. That's akin to yelling and not appreciated by the audience.

• Don't flag other users' comments just because you don't agree with their point of view. Please only flag comments that violate these guidelines.

You should also know that The Sacramento Bee does not screen comments before they are posted. You are more likely to see inappropriate comments before our staff does, so we ask that you click the "Report Abuse" link to submit those comments for moderator review. You also may notify us via email at Note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us the profile name of the user who made the comment. Remember, comment moderation is subjective. You may find some material objectionable that we won't and vice versa.

If you submit a comment, the user name of your account will appear along with it. Users cannot remove their own comments once they have submitted them.

No comments:

Post a Comment