NEW HAVEN, CT - The Hospital of Saint Raphael has entered the flu season with more than 96 percent of employees opting to get influenza vaccinations. The high rate of participation, a record for the hospital, is a result of an intensive campaign to promote vaccination as a way to protect patients and staff from influenza.
A steady increase in the rate of patients diagnosed with the flu in recent weeks prompted Saint Raphael’s to declare the start of flu precautions on March 23. The Connecticut Department of public health has determined that flu activity is regional in the state as of March 17, the most recent data available. The warm weather delayed the start of flu season, and hospital experts expect the season to be short. This year’s flu vaccine matches the virus currently in circulation and has proven highly effective.
As part of flu prevention efforts, Saint Raphael’s employees were required to show proof of vaccination or submit documentation for a medical exemption by Dec. 1, 2011. Total participation in the program was 100 percent; the small percentage of employees with documented medical exemptions to vaccination will be required to wear medical face masks. Medical face masks are worn to prevent the spread of flu via coughing or sneezing.
Saint Raphael’s is in the vanguard of hospitals nationwide requiring their employees to receive the flu vaccine, a group which includes the Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, the BJC Healthcare hospital network in St. Louis and the Johns Hopkins Health System. In Connecticut, five hospitals have made flu vaccinations mandatory: The Hospital of Saint Raphael, St. Vincent’s Medical Center, Griffin Hospital, Middlesex Hospital and Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.
According to the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, health care organizations with high vaccination rates can cut patient death rates from flu by up to 40 percent. Vaccination also keeps employees healthier and helps prevent workplace disruptions: A 1994 study of healthy working adults showed that those with vaccinations have 25 percent fewer upper respiratory infections, 44 percent fewer doctor’s visits and 43 percent fewer sick days.
To find out more about flu prevention, visit the Saint Raphael’s website at www.srhs.org/flufacts.