Some health care workers required to get flu vaccine

Norton Healthcare has become the latest health care system to require its employees to get flu vaccines.

The Louisville, Ky.-based system said the requirement for its more than 12,000 employees proves the company’s “commitment to a healthy community and remarkable patient care.” Unless they have a diagnosed medical condition that prohibits it, employees must receive the influenza vaccine by Dec. 10. The policy includes both employees and independent physicians.

Norton said it’s among the first 16 percent of health care systems in the nation to adopt this mandatory policy. Last week, the state of Rhode Island announced it began to require flu vaccines for health care workers. A little more than two-thirds of all health care personnel received the flu vaccine in the 2011-12 season, marking a 3.4 percentage-point increase from the season before, according to CDC statistics.

“It is important that our employees know the impact they have on patient care and community health,” says Paul Schultz, medical director, infection control and employee health, Norton Healthcare. “Our early adoption of this policy proves our leadership in the health care community.”

Health care workers who have direct contact with patients are the primary source of disease outbreaks in health care facilities, research shows. Research from Truven Health Analytics finds that hospital workers are less healthy than other U.S. workers, and health care spending is 9 percent higher for them than the general employee population.

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