Headline news this January 2, 2013, is the developing story of the dismissal of eight veteran nurses because they refused to take flu shot for religious reasons.
According to CNN, an Indiana hospital has fired eight employees, many of them veteran nurses, because they refused to take the flu vaccine. CNN senior medical reporter Elizabeth Cohen was interviewed this morning on the story, claiming that health workers had an obligation to insure patients in weakened states were not in direct contact with those who might have been exposed to influenza.
IU Health Goshen hospital is at the center of this, while four of the fired nurses tried to appeal the vaccine on religious grounds with the help of a lawyer. The hospital rejected their arguments and fired them anyway. CNN reports that the hospital is backed up by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Earlier in the year, the hospital informed its staff that vaccinations would be mandatory for all employees based on guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Medical Association, which both recommend mandatory vaccinations for employees.
'As a hospital and health system, our top priority is and should be patient safety, and we know that hospitalized people with compromised immune systems are at a greater risk for illness and death from the flu,' hospital spokeswoman Melanie McDonald told the Elkhart Truth newspaper.
'The flu has the highest death rate of any vaccine preventable disease, and it would be irresponsible from our perspective for health care providers to ignore that.'
The fired nurses, including Joyce Gingerich and Sue Schrock were both veteran nurses who filed appeals on religious grounds.
'I feel like in my personal faith walk, I have felt instructed not to get a flu vaccination, but itís also the whole matter of the right to choose what I put in my body..."
Sue Schrock, a hospice nurse, said she has not had a flu vaccine for 30 years as a result of a choice she made because of her Christian faith.
Dr. Damon Raskin is a Los Angeles based board certified Internist who also sub-specializes in geriatric medicine and addiction issues at Cliffside Malibu. Dr. Raskin is also the supervising MD for Ageless Menís Health, a nationwide facility dealing with menís health and anti-aging issues.
Dr. Raskin spoke to Monsters and Critics this morning (Jan. 2) and gave his perspective on this developing story:
"Influenza can be extremely dangerous for many and fatal for some. The most susceptible are the young, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. These are the exact same people who are also most likely to be in a hospital setting and thus at risk if healthcare workers are not vaccinated for the flu.
Healthcare workers and hospitals have a moral and ethical obligation to do everything in their power to not do harm and put every policy in place to protect their patients. Although individuals should have the right to refuse vaccines based on their religious faith, this should not be at the expense of public safety. I agree with the hospital that these unvaccinated nurses should not be interacting with at risk patients. Perhaps they could have given them other administrative duties rather than direct patient care until flu season was over."