December 7, 2012

Harrington to Require Unvaccinated Staff to Wear Flu Masks

SOUTHBRIDGE, Mass. - December 7, 2012 -- Beginning Wednesday, December 12 at 7 a.m., Harrington HealthCare System will require all employees, physicians and volunteers who do not receive the flu vaccine to wear surgical masks when they come within three feet of a patient or are entering a patient room or an enclosed treatment area.

"We are committed to providing the safest possible environment for our patients and their families, as well as for our staff and their families," said Edward H. Moore, President and CEO of Harrington HealthCare System. "Requiring unvaccinated employees to wear masks when they are near patients is critical to patient safety.

"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," he added.

Harrington decided to implement its flu-mask policy, which it formulated one year ago, because the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control in Washington, D.C., are reporting an increase in flu activity and there have been cases of the flu in this region.

"Influenza is a serious but preventable disease and as healthcare workers, we need to do everything we can to stay healthy and keep our patients healthy," said Sue Valentine, Infection Preventionist at Harrington.

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 three quarters of all Harrington employees, physicians and volunteers have been vaccinated, and that number is growing.

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 as many as 35,000 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 receive a flu shot each year.