January 6, 2012

Harrington Adopts Flu Mask Policy

SOUTHBRIDGE, Mass. - January 6, 2012 - Harrington HealthCare System will require all employees, physicians and volunteers who do not receive the flu vaccine to wear surgical masks when they are within six feet of patients or if they are in patient areas.

"We are taking this step because we consider the vaccination of hospital workers to be critical to patient safety," said Harrington President and CEO Edward H. Moore. "Hospital workers can be very prone to contracting this disease if they are not vaccinated, and they can become infectious days before they show any symptoms.

"Unfortunately, there are some staff members who would like to receive a flu vaccination but, because of valid medical reasons, are unable to do so," Moore added.

Workers, including volunteers, who have not received a vaccination will be required to wear the mask when they are within six feet of a patient or when they enter a patient room, cubicle, procedure room or examination room. The requirement to wear a mask will commence at the beginning of a flu outbreak in the area and will last through the end of flu season, as determined by the Harrington Infection Prevention Department and the state Department of Public Health.

This initiative will be in effect for all Harrington medical facilities -- the Harrington Hospital campus in Southbridge, Harrington HealthCare at Hubbard in Webster, and Harrington HealthCare at Charlton -- as well as Harrington Physician Services offices.

Approximately 84 percent of all Harrington employees, physicians, volunteers have been vaccinated, and that number is growing as more receive a flu shot or flu mist.

The vaccine is just one of the ways Harrington is helping to protect patients, staff and family members from the flu. Additional measures include staff education, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette. Patients with a positive flu swab will be isolated on droplet precautions
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness and is responsible for more than 20,000 deaths per year. . The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone six months and older to receive a flu shot each year.