Forty-two employees at Abington Memorial and Lansdale Hospitals were suspended from work Friday afternoon because they refused to be vaccinated for the flu. If they don’t get vaccinated within two weeks or are not approved for medical or religious exceptions, they’ll be fired.
Dr. John Kelly, chief medical officer for the hospitals, said full vaccination at hospitals protects both vulnerable patients and the health-care workers themselves. The evidence is too compelling to ignore, he said.
“In America, you’re always going have people who don’t want to be forced to do things,” Kelly said. “But our first duty is to our patients and protecting our patients against influenza is certainly a fulfillment toward that duty.”
The hospitals have allowed for exemptions based on medical and religious reasons. But some say that’s not enough.
Betsy Snook of the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association said getting vaccinated is vital for health-care workers, and the association encourages its members to do so. But Snook said people should have the right to refuse for personal reasons.
“We believe people have a right to do that as a citizen of the state and the United States, they have that option,” Snook said. “We do still believe health-care workers should get their flu shot.”
Kelly said the vast majority of the hospitals’ 8,000 employees are in compliance with the policy. He expects almost all of the employees who have refused so far to be vaccinated will do so. But he still expects to have to fire a few workers who refuse vaccination for personal reasons.
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and University of Pennsylvania hospitals instituted a similar requirement for the first time last year. Representatives of both said they had a handful of employees who refused to comply and were either fired or suspended without pay until the end of flu season.