Flu shot rate varies among health staffs

URBANA — Nobody expects to go to the doctor or the hospital and catch the flu from a caregiver, but not all health care employees get flu shots.

New data released Friday for 32 Illinois hospitals showed the percentage of hospital employees vaccinated in October for the 2012-2013 flu season varied.

There were two local hospitals included: Carle Foundation Hospital had immunized 64 percent of its staff through October, and Hoopeston Regional Health Center had immunized 69 percent.

The information was released by Quality Quest for Health of Illinois, a Peoria-based health care improvement collaborative of which Health Alliance Medical Plans, Urbana, is a partner.

Provena Covenant Medical Plans and Provena United Samaritans Medical Center weren't included, but Covenant spokeswoman Crystal Senesac said both hospitals have immunized 98 percent of their staffs to date. The other 2 percent of employees were exempted for religious or other reasons, she said.

Christie Clinic also requires its staff to get flu shots but didn't have a compliance percentage available Friday.

Carle didn't begin immunizing most of its staff until November and as of Friday had administered flu shots to 82 percent of its hospital and physician office employees throughout its system, according to Dr. William Scott, Carle's head of occupational medicine and employee health.

Carle expects to exceed 95 percent compliance, Scott said. Data is still being entered on those employees who have gotten flu shots, and some employees are still getting their flu shots.

Other area hospitals listed in the Quality Quest data:

— St. John's Hospital in Springfield, 92 percent.

— Decatur Memorial Hospital, 98 percent.

— OSF St. Joseph Medical Center, Bloomington, 73 percent.

— St. Mary's Hospital, Decatur, 87 percent.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises all U.S. health care workers to get a flu shot. Immunizing health care workers is important because those they're exposed to the community and could expose their patients to infection, Scott says.

"We have a policy, that is we request that all employees receive the vaccination, and if they do not, they wear a mask if they are involved in patient care areas," he said.

The mask requirement holds through the flu season, Dec. 1 through May 1, he said.

Any visitors who come to the hospital coughing are also asked to put on a mask for the protection of others, Scott said.

Senesac said Covenant and United Samaritans employees who are exempted from flu shots also must wear a mask during the flu season in all patient care areas and when they come into contact with the public.

Quality Quest for Health says it will update immunization percentages for the 32 hospitals monthly through March 2013 at http://www.qualityquest.org.

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