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Thomas Memorial hospital requiring employee flu shots

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Starting this summer, Thomas Memorial Hospital employees will be required to receive a yearly influenza vaccination to keep their jobs.

The hospital's board of trustees approved the new policy on Thursday. It gives employees until Nov. 30 to be vaccinated or seek an exemption to the policy.

The text of the policy says it applies to all employees of the Thomas Health System, including contract staff and students. But Paige Johnson, spokeswoman for the health system, said St. Francis Hospital's board of trustees has not yet approved the policy.

That hospital's medical executive committee will vote on the policy at its March 27 meeting. St. Francis' board of trustees will meet on March 28.

Because St. Francis' officials have not approved the policy, neither St. Francis nor Thomas Memorial has announced the policy to employees.

Thomas Memorial's quality council and medical executive committee approved the policy earlier this month.

Kathy McCarty, director of quality control for the health system, announced the new policy at a Thomas Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees meeting Thursday.

"All employees including contract staff and students at the Thomas Health System are mandated to receive yearly influenza vaccinations. All employees will be vaccinated during a specified vaccination period based on (Center for Disease Control) recommendations," the policy reads.

Employees must be vaccinated before Nov. 30 of each year. That also is the deadline for employees to file for an exemption from the policy. Johnson said employees must have a doctor's excuse to be exempted.

Any employee who does not comply with the policy will be placed on suspension without pay for up to 30 days, Johnson said. The employee will be terminated if they do not get a shot within that time.

She said the hospital will begin offering free flu shots to employees in September or October.

Thomas Memorial Hospital has about 1,100 employees.

St. Francis has about 700 employees.

Charleston Area Medical Center already requires its employees to get yearly flu vaccines.

CAMC announced its company-wide policy in its August 2009 newsletter. The hospital system gave employees until early December of that year to be vaccinated or be fired. The deadline was later pushed back to January after concerns over "swine flu" led to an increased demand for vaccines.

"The strongest recommendation that's out there is to take the vaccine every year. Our board of trustees and administrators had been discussing this for a couple years," CAMC Director of Epidemiology Terrie Lee said at the time. "We decided this year to make it a mandatory process for all of our employees."

Hospital employees were allowed to submit a request to be exempted from the vaccine policy for health reasons. Those employees first had to undergo evaluations to prove they had extenuating medical conditions, however, and were required to wear a mask over their nose and mouth while at work during flu season.

Two CAMC employees were fired for refusing to get a flu shot.

CAMC's policy covers about 6,000 employees. CAMC spokesman said fewer than 30 employees applied for flu shot waivers last year.

Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-7939 or zack.harold@dailymail.com.


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