Under a wide-ranging health care bill approved Friday by the Texas Senate, hospitals would have to develop policies requiring immunizations for employees who have contact with patients.
The provision, which can include everyone from housekeepers to doctors, is intended to protect patients from exposure to preventable diseases, particularly the flu.
“It’s a patient-safety issue,” said Denise Rose with the Texas Hospital Association, which supports the requirement. “If someone is in a room with a patient who’s very ill or whose immune system is compromised, they should be vaccinated.”
Studies have shown that hospitals with higher vaccination rates among workers have lower patient mortality rates, and organizations including the American College of Physicians have said that health workers have an ethical obligation to immunize.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all health care workers receive annual flu shots, but CDC surveys in 2006 and 2008 found less than half had received the influenza vaccine. The agency also recommends that health workers be immunized against chickenpox, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria and whooping cough.
In the Austin area, all employees in the Seton Healthcare Family’s 10 hospitals must get flu shots; the seven St. David’s HealthCare hospitals require the vaccine for all employees who work in patient areas or come in contact with patients. Both hospital systems require unvaccinated employees to wear a surgical mask during flu season, roughly November through May, when dealing with patients.