Many Health Workers Required to Get Flu Shot or Wear Mask

3:55 PM, Oct 18, 2013   |    comments
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BUFFALO, N.Y. - Get your flu shot or wear a mask all day at work, that's the decision many health care workers need to make soon.

The state Health Department created this mandate earlier this year...to keep people healthy and save lives during the flu season.

State law says many health care workers need to get a flu shot by November 1st.

"We want to get as many people immunized before the season starts and it's known to start as early as Nov. 1," said Mary Pruski, administrator and nurse at Kaleida Health.

If they don't, employees need to wear on the job a mask, like the ones doctors wear, so they don't spread the flu to others. And the masks need to be worn through the whole flu season, which could go until the spring.

Most hospitals, nursing homes and treatment centers have to follow the new law and essentially, anyone who could expose others to the flu needs to comply. This goes for many doctors, food service workers and volunteers. Assisted living facilities and private practices don't have to comply.

"A lot of people that previously had not gotten the flu vaccine and when compared to using the mask, throughout the season are willing to try it out, at least for a season and see how it goes," said Dr. Kevin Shiley of Catholic Health.

Health care providers like Kaleida Health and Catholic Health, will track who gets a flu shot, by putting a sticker on their work badge. Kaleida says about 65 percent of their employees have already been vaccinated. Catholic Health says no one at this point, has refused the flu shot.

At any time, during the flu season the state could check to see which facilities are following the law. Some people don't have to get the flu shot, like those who have a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine. For the people who refuse a flu shot or a mask, they could be penalized by their employer.

This includes suspension and possible dismissal.

"We will make sure they know of the consequences on not complying and then each person will have to make their own decision," said Pruski.

The state says if the employee has a special need, this will be handled by the employer on a case-by-case basis.

2 On Your Side has received comments from health care employees, who are upset that the flu shot or mask decision is a mandate.

They rather it be a choice.

Many union groups like the CWA and SEIU were uncomfortable with the mandate, when it didn't include the exemptions. Now, they're supportive of the mandate.

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