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Exceeds National Average of 36 Percent

SEATTLE, Wash. - (Dec. 27, 2007) - Virginia Mason Medical Center is steadfast in its goal to keep patients safe from the potentially deadly influenza virus by achieving a 98 percent staff influenza immunization rate as of Dec. 26, far exceeding the national health care worker rate of 36 percent.

"Keeping patients safe is our number one goal at Virginia Mason. It's been evidenced that immunization is highly effective in preventing the flu, and requiring all staff members to be immunized goes a long way in keeping our patients safe." says Cathie Furman, senior vice president of quality and compliance at Virginia Mason.

In 2005, Virginia Mason became the first medical institution in the nation to require all its staff members receive an influenza immunization. The medical center provides free staff immunizations, on-site inoculations, accommodations for those with special needs and awareness efforts to encourage full staff participation.

"Our influenza immunization effort has become an integral part of operations. It is no longer a special initiative. Flu immunization is considered a basic fitness-for-duty requirement. Clearly this has worked as we have exceeded previous immunization rates." says Furman.

Leading authorities, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have long recommended influenza immunization for health care workers based on safety and ethical responsibility. In 2003, The National Quality Forum, a voluntary consensus health care standard organization, included influenza immunization of health care workers as one of its 30 safe practices that should be universally adopted to reduce the risk of harm to patients.

Virginia Mason's influenza immunization plan takes into consideration several key facts:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show that 36,000 people in the United States die from the flu each year.
  • Five to 20 percent of the population gets the flu each year.
  • More than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications.
  • Some 50 percent of people with influenza have no symptoms, but they are still contagious.

In addition to its staff immunization policy, Virginia Mason encourages patients and visitors to receive the vaccine and follow infection control precautions, such as hand washing, covering coughs and wearing a mask if one has not been immunized. People who may have a contagious illness are asked to refrain from visiting hospital patients. Each entrance has a wellness kiosk that provides antibacterial gel and materials to protect against infection transmission.

Virginia Mason Medical Center
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 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.

Alisha Mark
Media Relations
(206) 341-1509

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