Flu shots all but ordered at UPMC
UPMC is telling its 63,000 employees to roll up their sleeves and get a flu shot.
The largest private employer in the state stopped short of calling it a mandatory policy, but those among its 63,000 workers who don't get a flu shot will be required to complete an online program that talks about the risks of rejecting the vaccine.
“We are using the term mandatory participation,” said Bill Smith, UPMC's senior director of emergency preparedness. “Everybody has to do something. We're not requiring everyone to receive a flu shot, but you can't just sit by and do nothing.”
The online program takes about three minutes to complete and explains to workers the importance of getting vaccinated to prevent the spread of influenza, a virus that can be harmful to the elderly, pregnant women and very young children. It asks employees to give a reason why they're not getting the shot, Smith said.
UPMC workers who refuse the flu shot and fail to complete the online educational module will be subjected to disciplinary action, Smith said. As with any other policy infraction, the form of discipline will vary.
The vaccine will be provided free of charge at employee health departments through UPMC's network of 20 hospitals. Employees can choose to get the flu shot at a doctor's office.
“We're expecting some folks won't be happy about it,” he said of UPMC's either-or approach.
The American Nurses Association called it a reasonable approach. “We absolutely strongly encourage every registered nurse who comes in contact with patients that they have an ethical obligation to get vaccinated so they can protect their patients,” said Cheryl Peterson, director of nursing practice and policy for the Maryland-based association.
The nurses group, however, opposes mandatory flu shots as a condition of employment, Peterson said.
Federal health authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommend that all U.S. workers get a flu shot. That includes those who directly care for patients — such as nurses and technicians — and people who aren't directly involved in patient care, such as housekeepers, clerical staff, laundry workers and security officers.
About 63 percent of health care workers employed by organizations with a voluntary flu shot policy received the vaccine during the past flu season, the CDC said. The compliance rate went up to 98 percent among workers who had an employer requirement.
Slightly more than 70 percent of UPMC workers got a flu shot last year, Smith said. He expects more employees will get the shot this yearbecause of the new policy. Employees will have until mid-December to get their shot and will receive reminders through the fall.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health, which licenses hospitals and health care facilities, does not require health care workers to get flu vaccinations, said spokeswoman Holli Senior.
Excela Health, which runs hospitals in Greensburg, Latrobe and Mt. Pleasant in Westmoreland County, adopted a mandatory flu shot policy in 2011. The policy calls for workers who don't get a flu shot to wear a surgical mask when entering any Excela facilities, said spokeswoman Robin Jennings.
About 92 percent of Excela's 4,600 employees received a flu shot during the 2012-13 flu season, Jennings said. The hospital was recognized with a special award by the state health department.
Luis Fábregas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-320-7998 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin bringing officials to practice
- Melocchi pleads guilty in leading McKeesport gambling ring
- Rossi: Pirates plan to carry Hurdle deep into playoffs
- Steelers’ Tomlin does not like his coaching style to be characterized
- Consol Energy Center cashes in again on payments from Rivers Casino
- Pets rescued from Westmoreland house fire
- Flags lowered to mourn Pa. state trooper shot dead during gun training
- Pittsburgh rises up for a 2nd year of Pirates magic
- Sparks fly at 2nd Corbett, Wolf campaign debate
- Penguins notebook: Malkin picture muddy
- Police identify, release people involved in I-70 collision