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South Dakota’s Health Systems Announce Plans to Require Employee Influenza Vaccinations

Sep 06, 2013 12:36PM ● By Med Editor

(Rapid City, SD and Sioux Falls, SD) – South Dakota’s three largest health systems jointly announced today they will require annual influenza vaccinations for all employees, health care providers and volunteers effective with the 2013-2014 influenza season. The organizations made the decision in order to maximize patient safety and protect employees against influenza.


“With the three largest health systems joining together in this initiative, we are making a statement that annual influenza vaccinations can reduce the number of influenza-related deaths,” said Charles E. Hart, M.D., M.S., President and CEO of Regional Health. “Required influenza vaccination for health care workers is the right thing to do for patient safety.”


Last year in South Dakota, 37 people died from influenza, which is the highest number of influenza-related deaths since 2004. Neonates, the elderly, immunocompromised and chronically ill patients are at particularly high risk of serious outcomes if they are infected with influenza.


“This decision will protect our patients and also protect our employees during this upcoming influenza season. It’s a decision that our physicians support. Sanford Health’s physician leadership groups, our Boards of Governors, in all four of our regions have unanimously recommended mandatory influenza vaccinations for all employees,” said Wendell Hoffman, M.D., Medical Director, Sanford Health infection prevention and control, Sioux Falls Region.


Influenza is a contagious respiratory disease spread by droplets from coughing, sneezing or talking or by way of contact with droplets on surfaces. It should not be confused with gastrointestinal viruses which cause vomiting or diarrhea.


“Vaccinations combined with good hand hygiene and cover your cough practices will reduce the spread of influenza,” said David Erickson, M.D., Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Avera. “These efforts will have an impact on the health of people across the region. The Avera mission calls us to improve the health of persons and communities and controlling the spread of flu brings that mission to life.”


Mandatory influenza vaccinations for health care workers have been endorsed by prestigious health care organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control, American Hospital Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Patient Safety Council, the American College of Physicians and the South Dakota Association of Health Care Organizations (SDAHO). Many health systems across the country are also implementing mandatory influenza vaccinations this year.


According to SDAHO President and CEO, Dave Hewett, “The fact is, this is the right thing to do for patient safety and the health care leaders in this state are making sure it happens. There are a few who may balk at getting the shot for whatever reason; but the fact is, patient and resident safety is improved when those caring for them have received their annual flu shot.”


Exceptions to the required immunization may be granted for medical or religious reasons only.