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Medical Center Presents Case Before Labor Board

SEATTLE, Wash. - (June 12, 2006) - Virginia Mason Medical Center (VM) will present arguments in support of its ability to implement changes to its infection control program at a hearing on June 13 before a National Labor Relations (NLRB) Board Administrative Law Judge.

At issue is Virginia Mason’s requirement that non-immunized inpatient nurses wear a face mask while on duty during influenza season (impacting a small portion of hospital staff). The Washington State Nurses Association contends the medical center is required to bargain such changes to its infection control program. The NLRB is expected to announce a decision sometime in late summer.

“This is a patient safety issue. As a medical center, we have a primary duty to protect patients and staff. We believe making changes to our infection control program is part of that duty,” said Robert Rakita, MD, Section Head, Infectious Disease at Virginia Mason. “We have a responsibility to provide the safest possible care for our patients.”

Currently, the medical center employs a broad infection control policy and uses many methods to prevent infection transmission such as hand washing, gowning, gloves and masking. Providing resources and education are also critical components to this successful infection control plan.

“Hospitalized patients are frequently at increased risk of infection. That’s why the medical center is focused on implementing a strong infection control program,” said Charleen Tachibana, RN, Senior Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer at Virginia Mason. “Ultimately, Virginia Mason’s plan is in the best interest of our patients and staff and honors the trust they place in us. We know these efforts could save lives,” continued Tachibana.

The Centers for Disease Control provides standards for medical centers to follow in the surveillance, prevention and control of infectious disease. This includes strong recommendations to implement appropriate precautions to limit transmissions such as hand washing, immunization and masking. It also advocates the medical center evaluate and implement interventions based on prioritized risks.

“We are pursuing the ability to make decisions about our infection control program. Our patients are depending on us,” continued Dr. Rakita.

About 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 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.

Alisha Mark
(206) 341-1509
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