Virginia Mason, through a press release to the media (without any notification to its nurses or WSNA in violation of a 9th circuit court mandate) on the afternoon of October 1st stated that “it will require all staff, including physicians, nurses, other clinicians and non-direct, patient-care staff, to receive the H1N1 vaccine, in addition to the seasonal flu vaccine, by Nov. 30 as a fitness-for-duty requirement.”
When the media brought this to our attention, WSNA immediately pointed out that Virginia Mason defied the 9th Circuit Court decision with its intention to implement a new requirement of H1N1 vaccination as a fitness-for-duty. This is a change in working conditions and must be bargained with WSNA, which they clearly have not done.
Due to pressure from WSNA, Virginia Mason has since issued a retraction to say that “There is no change to Virginia Mason's flu policy for union represented nurses. Represented nurses who do not get the H1N1 vaccine or the seasonal flu vaccine are required to wear a mask during the flu season.”
This is a clear victory for WSNA nurses at VM and around the State!
If VM is so concerned by safety, why don’t they follow CDC guidelines?
Virginia Mason’s policy to require all nurses who are not vaccinated against the seasonal and H1N1 vaccine is NOT evidence based and does NOT comply with CDC guidelines. Current CDC recommendations do NOT call for non-vaccinated health care personnel to wear a mask at all times while on duty.
According to the current CDC guidelines:
- No studies have definitively shown that mask used by either infectious patients or health-care personnel prevents influenza transmission.
- Surgical masks should be worn by health care personnel (whether vaccinated or not) when in close contact (within 3 ft) with a patient who has symptoms of a respiratory infection.
- N-95 respirators should be worn by health care personnel (whether vaccinated or not) when in close contact (within 3 ft) with a patient diagnosed or suspected of having the H1N1 virus.
VM’s requirement that all nurses who are not vaccinated wear a mask at all times while on duty is merely a punitive measure against those who choose not to be vaccinated. It ignores standard precautions while creating a false sense of security for patients, the public and nurses.
VM - If you really care about patient and nurse safety:
- Why don’t you follow CDC guidelines?
- Why don’t you provide adequate and appropriate equipment to the nurses?
Stay tuned for updates. Please contact WSNA Nurse Representative Ed Zercher, BSN, RN, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-575-7979 x.3022 for questions and with any information. Go to WSNA's Flu Information Website for more information.