EMMC Takes Important Step to Reduce the Spread of Influenza

09/16/2016

Thousands of people in the United States die each year from influenza. Beginning with the upcoming flu season, a change in EMMC’s flu prevention policy seeks to decrease the disease’s spread in the hospital and in other healthcare settings.

“This flu season, all employees, physicians, volunteers, students, trainees, and contracted staff working in an Eastern Maine Medical Center facility will be encouraged to receive the vaccine, which is consistent with what has happened in past years,” says James Raczek, MD, FAAFP, senior vice president and chief medical officer. “What’s new is that when flu season begins, those who decline the vaccine will need to wear a mask at all times while at work, except when eating and drinking.”

Similar policies are in place at most EMHS member hospitals, and at the majority of hospitals in Maine. In past years, EMMC’s vaccination rate has been about 80 percent. According to Robert Pinsky, MD, EMMC hospital epidemiologist, this policy change will likely result in a higher vaccination rate.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages vaccination,” he says. “EMMC, like many other healthcare organizations, believes that requiring the use of masks by those who cannot or choose not to be vaccinated will further reduce the risk of transmission of influenza.”

Several flu vaccination clinics will be offered to provide healthcare personnel with an opportunity to receive the flu shot at no cost. Masks will be readily available throughout the hospital for those who do not get vaccinated.

The policy applies at all EMMC points of service, including the hospital on State Street, EMMC Healthcare Mall, EMMC Cancer Care, primary and specialty care practices, and other care settings.

“While we hope that all employees who are able to receive the vaccine choose to do so, we respect any individual’s right to decline,” adds Dr. Raczek. “We know that healthcare workers are some of the most caring people, and would not want to put patients at risk. This change in policy ensures that everyone at EMMC is doing the right thing to keep our patients safe.”