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Hospital seeks court approval to include union nurses in staff flu immunization requirement

SEATTLE, Wash. – (Jan. 26, 2006) –In a continuing effort to advance patient safety, Virginia Mason Medical Center today filed a notice of appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit seeking to vacate an arbitrator’s decision that excludes Virginia Mason nurses represented by the Washington State Nurses Association from the hospital’s flu immunization requirement. The medical center’s appeal rests on the fundamental principle that it has the right to establish a staff influenza immunization requirement as a safety measure for the protection of its patients and staff.

“We are committed to flu immunization, a highly effective safety and infection control practice to protect our patients and staff. This effort honors the trust our patients place in us,” said Patti Crome, Senior Vice President and Clinic Administrator.

More than 36,000 individuals die each year from influenza. Ensuring that staff are immunized is an important step that could save lives. “It is our moral duty to do all we can to protect patients. A flu shot is simply the best known prevention measure that health care workers can take to prevent influenza transmission,” said Robert Rakita, MD, Section Head of Infectious Disease at Virginia Mason.

As the first medical center to implement flu immunization as an all staff requirement, Virginia Mason Medical Center is a leader in achieving high flu immunization rates among health care workers. During the current flu season, Virginia Mason has achieved a number of firsts including:
  • First medical center to implement flu immunization as a fitness for duty requirement
  • First medical center to achieve near 100 percent staff flu immunization rate (compared to a national immunization rate for health care workers of 38 percent)
  • First regional drive thru flu immunization clinic
Improving influenza health care worker immunization rates has been and continues to be a key health industry goal supported by the Centers for Disease Control, the American Nurses Association, the American Medical Association and more.

Virginia Mason Medical Center, founded in 1920, is a non-profit comprehensive regional health care system that combines a primary and specialty care group practice of more than 400 physicians with a 336-bed acute care Seattle hospital. 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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Alisha Mark
(206) 341-1509
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