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Spotlight falls on IU Health for flu shot firings

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Indiana University Health got national attention last week for its decision to fire eight employees for refusing to get a flu vaccination.

The Indianapolis-based hospital system dismissed three nurses and five other employees from its IU Health Goshen Hospital, which sparked a raft of stories from state and national media.

ABC News posted a lengthy piece about the decision on its website Thursday. It featured IU Health nurse Ethel Hoover, who ended a nearly 22-year career at Goshen Hospital over IU Health’s new mandatory flu shot policy.

"This is my body. I have a right to refuse the flu vaccine," said Hoover, 61, who wore all black on her last day of work to mourn her dismissal. "For 21 years, I have religiously not taken the flu vaccine, and now you're telling me that I believe in it."

Fellow IU Health nurse Kacy Davis said she and her colleagues were "horrified" over Hoover's firing, calling her their "go-to" nurse.

“Your body has its natural responses to fight off certain viruses and infections, and if you continually inoculate your body with something that’s not even guaranteed from preventing you from getting it, why would you do it?” Hoover told the Elkhart Truth newspaper. Flu shots are effective about 60 percent of the time, according to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

IU Health said its mandate, instituted in September, is meant to improve patient safety. Hospital patients often already have compromised health, and so many may be more vulnerable to the flu.

"IU Health's top priority is the health and well-being of our patients," said hospital spokeswoman Whitney Ertel. "Participation in the annual Influenza Patient Safety Program is a condition of employment with IU Health for the health and safety of the patients that we serve, and is therefore required."

Of IU Health’s 26,000 employees, all but 500 complied. The hospital system says it anticipates 175 terminations in all as a result of the new policy.

Two other nurses also were fired by IU Health after they refused to take the flu shots and IU Health denied their request for exemptions based on medical needs or religious beliefs.

“I feel like in my personal faith walk, I have felt instructed not to get a flu vaccination,” former IU Health nurse Joyce Gingerich told the Elkhart Truth. “But it’s also the whole matter of the right to choose what I put in my body and what I feel God wants me to put in versus someone mandating what I put in. It is a very big issue for me.”

Former nurse Sue Schrock told the Elkhart newspaper there are other ways to stay healthy besides a flu shot, like taking natural vitamins, eating well and exercising. The last time she had a flu shot was about 30 years ago.

“I just learned more and more about natural healing,” Schrock said. “We’ve been using natural products for a good 20 years, and that’s the way we believe healing takes place.”

 

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  • pharmaceutical double dipping
    If a patient has the right to refuse, then so should a healthcare worker. I agree with another reader in that anyone who walks into the hospital COULD be a vector, but no one is asking to see if they have had the flu shot. The flu hype is a complete fraud. Call it pharmaceutical double dipping. 60 percent effective, which means you will most likely still get the flu, and be contagious. $40 for the shot, and then all the otc medications generates a lot of money for the pharmaceuticals. Government sleeps with the pharmaceutical industry. A pay back for all that generous campaign contributions putting their politician in Congress. If the government REALLY cared about stopping the transmission of the flu, then why not have a TV campaign outlying proper hand washing techniques, proper nutrition, coughing into your elbow, wiping down surface areas contaminated; rest, and exercise. The very fact that they have not started a campaign of educating the public further backs up my theory of profits over factual evidence. I am a RN in the icu. I did not take the flu shot. Use some common sense here. Don't buy into the fear that the pharmaceutical and Government are propagating.
  • Troubling question
    Although Indiana is a "fire at will" state, this may not apply, but......... as I understand it, people can be given exemptions for religious belief against a flu shot, but NOT for non-religious beliefs against it. This would seem to be an agnostic's civil rights issue.
  • Flu Shots
    I do not want to be treated by a nurse who isn't vaccinated for influenza.
  • It goes both ways
    Mr Kellogg if u think healthcare workers should be required to have the flu vaccination because they might pose a risk to a patient then every visitor, sales or pharmacy rep and even other patients pose the same risk to the healthcare provider. Truth be known... Healthcare providers are more likely to contract something from the patient instead of vice versa. The major point is that it is taking away another right. We are told to wear our seatbelts what kind of oil to cook our food in, whether we can allow smoking in a privately owned business etc. where will it ever stop. You already have to give them a blood sample to get insurance.
  • Mythology and Mindless Faith?
    Sorry...here is the link. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/11/06/flu-vaccine-efficacy.aspx
  • Mythology and Mindless Faith?
    Some science for you....mindless faith and mythology...really? Ask any practitioner to guarantee that the flu shot...or any shot for that matter, will not cause you harm...and 100% of them will not give you that guarantee.
    • change the focus
      I believed they missed the boat on this one. Flu prevention is important -but MRSA is much more deadly. CDC indicates flu-associated deaths ranged from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there were estimated 94,360 MRSA infections (invasive) in the US with approx. 18,650 deaths. Other organizations estimate the true numbers to be over one million infected in the US with MRSA and over 100,00 deaths. US hospitals use ICD9 coding and many MRSA infections were not included in statistics. 85% of all invasive MRSA infections were from healthcare facilities with patients contracting infections after their stay ( two-thirds) and one-third while in the facility. This is preventable - persona hygein and clean healthcare facilities. I believe if insurance campanies and patients refused to pay for hospital aquired MRSA - it would go away very fast. http://www.mrsasurvivors.org/statistics http://www.cdc.gov/mrsa/prevent/healthcare/precautions.html#standard
    • Choices
      We all make choices in our life and the choices we make determine our path. If one wants to work in the healing science industry, one should be dedicated to the science and reason of that industry. If the science says that vaccinated healthcare workers create a more favorable environment for patient care, it makes sense that the employer requires vaccination of its healthcare employees as rule number one is to not expose patients to increased harm. If one chooses to rely upon mythology and mindless faith to the exclusion of science they probably do not belong in the healing sciences.

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      1. These liberals are out of control. They want to drive our economy into the ground and double and triple our electric bills. Sierra Club, stay out of Indy!

      2. These activist liberal judges have gotten out of control. Thankfully we have a sensible supreme court that overturns their absurd rulings!

      3. Maybe they shouldn't be throwing money at the IRL or whatever they call it now. Probably should save that money for actual operations.

      4. For you central Indiana folks that don't know what a good pizza is, Aurelio's will take care of that. There are some good pizza places in central Indiana but nothing like this!!!

      5. I am troubled with this whole string of comments as I am not sure anyone pointed out that many of the "high paying" positions have been eliminated identified by asterisks as of fiscal year 2012. That indicates to me that the hospitals are making responsible yet difficult decisions and eliminating heavy paying positions. To make this more problematic, we have created a society of "entitlement" where individuals believe they should receive free services at no cost to them. I have yet to get a house repair done at no cost nor have I taken my car that is out of warranty for repair for free repair expecting the government to pay for it even though it is the second largest investment one makes in their life besides purchasing a home. Yet, we continue to hear verbal and aggressive abuse from the consumer who expects free services and have to reward them as a result of HCAHPS surveys which we have no influence over as it is 3rd party required by CMS. Peel the onion and get to the root of the problem...you will find that society has created the problem and our current political landscape and not the people who were fortunate to lead healthcare in the right direction before becoming distorted. As a side note, I had a friend sit in an ED in Canada for nearly two days prior to being evaluated and then finally...3 months later got a CT of the head. You pay for what you get...

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