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Administrative Law Judge Rules VM is Not Required to Bargain Infection Control Policy With Union

SEATTLE, Wash. – (Sept. 26, 2006) – Last week, a National Labor Relations Board Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) ruled in favor of Virginia Mason Medical Center and agreed that its infection control policy, and specifically a face mask requirement for non-immunized nursing staff, was not a mandatory subject of bargaining under the federal labor law. The judge focused on the core purpose of a hospital’s business, which is patient care. He stated, “The hospital’s flu prevention policy is designed to protect its patients. I can imagine little if anything that is more central to the hospital’s purpose than its attempt to keep its patients free from the influenza virus.”

> Earlier this year the Washington State Nurses’ Association (WSNA), which represents inpatient nurses at Virginia Mason, questioned whether the use of face masks was a subject of bargaining within its union contract. The ruling supports the medical center’s broad influenza infection control plan and commitment to patient safety by combating the spread of influenza.

“Our goal is to serve patients and protect them while they are in the hospital,” said Patti Crome, Senior Vice President and Clinic Administrator. “Influenza kills 36,000 people each year. We believe we can save lives through safety measures, such as calling for unvaccinated staff to wear a face mask. For our patients who expect to receive their health care in a safe environment, this ruling honors their trust in us.”

> Last year Virginia Mason achieved the highest staff flu immunization rate in the nation. The medical center launched the first hospital staff policy to require an influenza immunization as a staff fitness-for-duty requirement. The medical center’s infection control plan is based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and other organizations that strongly urge influenza vaccination for health care workers and patients as one of the best known means to prevent transmission of influenza.

About Virginia Mason Medical Center
Virginia Mason Medical Center, founded in 1920, is a not-for-profit comprehensive regional health care system that combines a primary and specialty care group practice of nearly 500 physicians with a 336-bed acute care hospital in Seattle. In addition, Virginia Mason has a network of clinics located throughout the Puget Sound area, and manages Bailey-Boushay House, a nursing residence and adult day health program for people living with HIV and AIDS. Virginia Mason also has an internationally recognized research center, Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason.
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