HARTFORD, CT – This flu season, Hartford HealthCare has taken an important step in the safety and well-being of the communities it serves by adopting a “universal flu prevention program.”
There are a number of key studies that support the link between a high employee flu vaccination rate and patient safety. Many prominent national organizations, including the American Hospital Association, the Infectious Disease Society of America, the American College of Physicians and the American Academy of Pediatrics, support universal flu vaccination for health care workers.
"At Hartford HealthCare, we feel we have a responsibility to protect the health of the entire community," said Rocco Orlando, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Hartford HealthCare. "By ensuring that every staff member who can be vaccinated safely receives the influenza vaccine, we will effectively reduce the spread of disease. When you get vaccinated, you are helping to protect the entire community, especially those who are frail and most vulnerable to flu."
The system-wide initiative puts Hartford HealthCare in a growing number of elite health care systems across the United States that have instituted universal flu prevention for employees and everyone who works, learns and volunteers in their facilities. The results speak for themselves. A survey conducted for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that health care organizations requiring flu vaccination had a nearly 100 percent vaccination rate during the 2010-11 flu season, compared to a 58.3 percent rate among institutions without a requirement.
“When it comes to our patients’ safety, half-way just won’t do,” said Dr. Orlando. “Health care workers are a breed apart. Doctors take an oath to ‘do no harm,’ and we all are bound by this same promise to protect everyone in our care – whether we work on a medical floor, in a business office or in the laundry. It’s not about us. It’s about the patients and families who depend on us.”
In the United States, deaths associated with influenza over the past few years have ranged from 3,000 to 49,000, according to federal health authorities. More than 200,000 are hospitalized with flu-related complications each year. Flu is most serious for the young, the elderly and those who are sick, frail and immunocompromised.
All employees, licensed independent practitioners, volunteers and students will be required to get a flu shot by December 1. In addition, Hartford HealthCare vendors/contractors who perform work at any HHC facility (for a month or more during flu season) also must receive a flu shot.
Medical and religious exemptions are allowed, and requests for these exemptions will be carefully evaluated. In order to fully protect our patients, staff members with approved exemptions will be required to wear surgical masks during flu season when they are within six feet of an area in which they may encounter patients.
“Simply put—if you have the flu and you come into contact with an immunocompromised patient, that interaction could be deadly,” said Dr. Orlando. “The influenza vaccine is a safe and effective weapon against flu. We owe it to our patients to do the right thing.”
Hartford HealthCare (HHC) is the premiere health care network in Connecticut with 15,000 employees and $2 billion in net revenue. The HHC system includes Hartford Hospital; The Hospital of Central Connecticut; MidState Medical Center; Windham Hospital; The Institute of Living psychiatric center; VNA HealthCare and VNA of Central Connecticut, which provide visiting nurse services throughout the state; Clinical Laboratory Partners with locations statewide; Hartford Medical Group; MidState Medical Group; the Doctors of Central Connecticut; Central Connecticut Senior Health Services, which includes five assisted-living and skilled nursing facilities; Eastern Rehabilitation Network; and two regional behavioral health centers, Rushford and Natchaug Hospital.