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Washington State Nurses Association Seeks Injunction in Federal Court to Block Mandatory Vaccination Policy by MultiCare Health System
Date:10/1/2009

SEATTLE, Oct. 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA), representing more than 16,000 registered nurses in Washington State, has filed a lawsuit in federal court against MultiCare Health System for unilaterally implementing a mandatory vaccination policy. This new policy will force nurses to get the flu vaccination or to wear face masks as a condition of employment and may result in the firing of nurses who do not comply with the policy. The lawsuit seeks an injunction to prevent the implementation of this policy for registered nurses at both Tacoma General and Good Samaritan Hospital.

"WSNA fully supports a voluntary vaccination program and we have been tireless in educating our nurses and the public about flu vaccinations and other prevention tips. We believe that any mandatory vaccination policy should be implemented on a federal or state level, not through a patchwork of hospital-by-hospital policies," said Judy Huntington, MN, RN, Executive Director of WSNA.

WSNA is advocating for an aggressive voluntary vaccination program and an increase in other critical precautions to prevent the transmission of the seasonal and H1N1 flu. WSNA was in the midst of negotiating a flu prevention program when they learned from the nurses that MultiCare had unilaterally implemented a mandatory vaccination policy.

"MultiCare's unilateral implementation of this policy blatantly ignores their legal obligation to bargain with the union. Their refusal to bargain and to cease and desist forced us to take this extraordinary measure to seek relief from federal court. Nurses want to be part of the solution and participate in efforts to prevent the spread of flu this fall. We have real concerns about how this program will be implemented and whether it actually promotes the safety of nurses and patients," said Barbara Frye, BSN, RN, Assistant Executive Director of Labor Relations for WSNA.

MultiCare's proposed plan will give vaccinated nurses a special red badge while requiring unvaccinated nurses to wear a surgical mask at all times while on duty. WSNA has expressed concern about MultiCare's insistence on the use of masks despite a lack of research supporting their efficacy in the prevention of influenza transmission.

"This is about protecting nurses, patients and their families and creating the safest environment for patient care. There are no studies definitively showing that the use of masks by health care personnel, whether vaccinated or not, prevents influenza transmission. In fact, masks can give a false sense of security for nurses, patients and their families. Unfortunately, MultiCare's focus on masks is not based on evidence or research. There is no single answer to keeping our patients and health care providers healthy this flu season. We are committed to a variety of approaches to educate our members and the public about the importance of vaccination and other preventive measures. Combating the flu will require coordination and collaboration among many stakeholders and WSNA is already actively engaged in these efforts," added Frye.

Founded in 1908, WSNA is the professional organization representing more than 16,000 registered nurses in Washington State. WSNA effectively advocates for the improvement of health standards and availability of quality health care for all people; promotes high standards for the nursing profession; and advances the professional and economic development of nurses.

SOURCE Washington State Nurses Association


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SOURCE Washington State Nurses Association
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