MASSENA - Anyone who has a formal affiliation with Massena Memorial Hospital and who does not have a flu shot this year will be required to wear a mask when at the facility.
If they refuse for some health reason and cannot take the vaccine, any employee, board member, auxilian or anybody who has a formal affiliation with the hospital will be required to wear a mask in the facility, CEO Charles F. Fahd II told members of the hospitals Board of Managers this week.
The move was mandated by new rules adopted by the New York Health Department this year that require all health care workers - volunteers included - at hospitals, nursing homes and other health care agencies to either get a flu shot or wear a mask when working with patients.
Nirav R. Shah, state health commissioner had noted, This regulation will enable health care workers to meet their obligation to do no harm to patients, and will protect workers as well.
Mr. Fahd invited board members to take advantage of the flu clinics they were offering at the hospital. One clinic was held this week, and future clinics will be held Oct. 3, 15 and 16.
If none of these four dates are good, call me, Mr. Fahd said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga. says that, although the timing of flu is very unpredictable and can vary from season to season, it commonly peaks in January or February. However, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue until as late as May.
They recommend an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first step in protecting against the flu. The vaccine is designed to protect against the three main flu strains that research indicates will cause the most illness during the flu season.
Mr. Fahd said the commissioner of health is solely responsible for determining when the flu season starts.
However, we are going to initiate the flu shots as early as possible to make sure theyre available for all hospital-affiliated individuals who want them, he said.
Employees who receive the flu vaccine will have a dot placed on their name badge, according to the hospital CEO.
Were going to know that they have been vaccinated with the flu vaccine, he said.
While the hospital is taking precautions with those affiliated with the facility, Mr. Fahd said visitors are not impacted.
This does not go to the public. It seems a little strange. Obviously the public does come and make visits to our patients, he said, noting visitors sometimes have the sniffles and may or may not already be carrying the flu.
The commissioner of health director says do not go that far to require a vaccination for the public, Mr. Fahd said.
There are options if theres a flu outbreak in the hospital, but he said its only in extreme cases.
We as a facility do have the ability to issue a quarantine of patients. We can say, look, the flu is running rampant and we will not allow any patient visitors. But that would be an extreme case, he said.
Canton-Potsdam Hospital spokesperson Rebecca J. Faber said their hospital was also abiding by the regulation, but its nothing new for the facility, which has long stressed the need to keep patients and workers protected from the flu.
We have seasonal flu vaccine clinics every season. We offer the vaccine to all employees and volunteers. This year its mandated, Ms. Faber said. We just set up all our clinics, which we would have set seasonally. All CEOs have gotten or will be getting a vaccination.
She said there were several myths about the flu, including, I always get the flu when I receive a flu shot.
But, Ms. Faber said, no scientific evidence supports coming down with the flu after receiving a vaccination.
The vaccine changes to account for the different strains of the flu every year, she said.
There are different strains every year. The vaccine tries to account for the most common strains. The purpose is partly so you will not spread it to others even if you do not suffer greatly from the flu, Ms. Faber said.
Those who are particularly vulnerable to the flu are children under 2 years of age, although the elderly are also susceptible.
They (those under 2) are among the highest percentage of the population who are hospitalized for flu symptoms; not the elderly but the very young children, she said.
The best way to protect themselves and others from the flu is to receive the flu shot and practice good hand hygiene.
Canton-Potsdam Hospital is very big on quality. Were very good at promoting protective practices for our staff and our visitors. Good hygiene is one of the best ways to avoid spreading (the flu) and avoid droplets. The mask helps with that, Ms. Faber said.
Besides the flu clinics at Massena Memorial and Canton-Potsdam hospitals, the St. Lawrence County Health Department has also scheduled clinics during October. Appointments are appreciated, but not required by calling 386-2325.
The clinics will be held from 1-3 p.m. Oct. 1 at the Canton Human Services Center; 1-3 p.m. Oct. 7 at Cambray Courts, Gouverneur; 1-3 p.m. Oct. 9 at the Massena Community Center; 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Oct. 8 at Riverview Towers in Ogdensburg; 1-3 p.m. Oct. 21 at New Home Community Church, Potsdam; and 1-3 p.m. Oct. 29 at the Canton Human Services Center.
Pneumonia shots will also be available.
The cost is $30 for flu shots and $75 for pneumonia shots, and the department will bill Medicare for flu and pneumonia vaccinations. Medicare recipients must bring their Medicare card with them to the clinics.