Fired for refusing a Flu Shot, what happened to “My Body My Choice?”

TriHealth, a company in Cincinnati, Ohio, recently fired 150 employees for failing to get a flu shot.

The company offered all of its 10,800 employees free flu shots. Employees had one month to get stuck with the shot.

The deadline was Nov. 16, and employees who did not get the shot were fired last Wednesday.

To keep their jobs, they need a flu shot by Dec. 3.

“The flu vaccine still is the best way to protect our employees and our patients against the flu,” spokesman Joe Kelley said.

This fall, Mount Carmel Health System became the most-recent central Ohio hospital system to require employee flu vaccinations. By late January 2013, OhioHealth said it will begin to hold accountable any employees who disregard a similar mandate that it first told them about during the 2011-12 flu season.

Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center and Nationwide Children’s Hospital began requiring employees to get the vaccine three years ago following the H1N1 flu scare.

At Wexner Medical Center, those who refuse vaccines on religious or philosophical grounds are asked to fill out waivers. Hospital officials try to change their minds by pointing out the science behind the vaccine and the risks of not being vaccinated to them, to patients and to their families.“It’s very touchy, and you walk a thin line between being discriminatory and doing what’s right from a medical standpoint,” Kirk said.

Penalties for noncompliance vary among hospitals. Children’s employees found to be noncompliant might receive cost-of-living pay increases but not merit-pay raises, Cunningham said. At Wexner Medical Center, employees who don’t receive the vaccine by Dec. 31 of each flu season will lose computer access.That leaves most workers unable to do their jobs, with the exception of some maintenance and custodial workers, Kirk said. “It’s gotten people’s attention.” Nobody has been terminated for noncompliance, he said.

OhioHealth employees who forgo the shots are subject to the hospital system’s progressive disciplinary system, though it’s not a firing offense if it is the first blemish on an employee’s record, OhioHealth officials said.

After Dec. 31, Mount Carmel employees won’t be able to work until they’ve complied with the new vaccination policy, spokesman Jason Koma said.

In Missouri, a Mercy Hospital employee is facing disciplinary action after refusing to get a flu shot.

The hospital adopted a mandatory flu shot policy this year.

“It is in the best interest of our patients,” Chief of Quality at Mercy Hospital Keith Starky said. “We know that influenza is a leading killer for the elderly and it is just not a risk we can take.”

The policy states that employees can forgo the shot for a few specific reasons, including religious.

The employee refusing to take the flu shot said she is a Christian.

“My religious reasons request was denied,” she said.

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