SALT LAKE CITY -- Health care workers frequently remind the public to get their influenza vaccinations, but are they practicing what they preach?
According to a report released by the Utah Department of Health, the answer is yes. A new online report shows which licensed Utah hospitals are vaccinating their employees, an important step in creating transparency for health care safety and quality in the state.
"Increasing influenza vaccination among health care workers is an essential part of a comprehensive patient-safety program," said Dr. Robert Rolfs, Utah Department of Health deputy director. "Unvaccinated health care workers are at risk for infection when working with patients who may carry influenza."
Most important, Rolfs said, if they become sick with influenza acquired at work or elsewhere, they can spread that infection to their patients, who are often the most vulnerable to serious complications of the disease.
All Top of Utah hospitals had high influenza vaccination rates in 2011, with McKay-Dee Hospital topping the list. Of 2,645 employees, 99 percent received the vaccination as required by Intermountain Healthcare. Nearly 98 percent of Ogden Regional Medical Center's employees received the vaccination.
"Our employees have been trained on and understand the importance of protecting our patients and community against the transmission of influenza," said Ogden Regional Medical Center chief nursing officer Elizabeth Later. "When we talk to our employees about getting the vaccination, we stress that it is the right thing to do for our patients, and they always respond to doing the right thing when it comes to our patients."
McKay-Dee Hospital Public Relations Director Chris Dallin said it's important that hospital employees do everything they can to prevent spreading illnesses to patients.
"We are committed to providing a safe and healing environment, and I am proud to work for an organization that practices what it preaches," he said.
Davis Hospital reported 97.2 percent of its employees as having received the vaccination. Lakeview Hospital came in at 96.8 percent, Brigham City Community Hospital at 95.3 percent and Bear River Valley Hospital at 98.4 percent.
Influenza vaccination of health care workers is a critical patient-safety practice that should be required in all health care facilities, according to the report, and patients should reasonably expect that they will not contract potentially life-threatening illnesses, such as influenza, from their health care providers while being treated for other conditions.
In November 2007, UDOH adopted a Healthcare Associated Infections reporting rule requiring that hospitals report health care worker influenza vaccination rates. Results have shown an increase in vaccination rates across the state from 71.7 percent in 2008 to 93.8 percent in 2011.