Most local hospitals have room for improvement in their efforts to get employees vaccinated, according to the Ohio Hospital Compare website, run by the state health department.
During the last flu season — Sept. 1, 2011, to March 31, 2012 — about 76 percent of Ohio’s hospital employees got a flu vaccination, according to the website.
One local hospital did better than that. Mercy Willard Hospital had a vaccination rate of about 89 percent, the website shows.
But other hospitals have some work to do. Here are the percentages: Firelands Regional Medical Center in Sandusky: 69.1 percent; Magruder Hospital in Port Clinton 62.9 percent; Fisher-Titus Medical Center in Norwalk 61.6 percent; Memorial Hospital in Fremont 58.2 percent; and Bellevue Hospital 48 percent.
Firelands’ statistics for the current flu season will likely be higher, said Patricia Martin, RN and vice president of quality and patient satisfaction at Firelands.
Hospital administrators have told employees they want everyone to get a flu shot, Martin said, and the hospital has used a carrot-and-stick approach to get things moving.
If employees don’t get a vaccination, they must explain the decision in writing, Martin said.
The hospital covers the cost of flu shots and does not charge an out-of-pocket fee or bill the employee’s insurance company, Martin said.
Firelands tried to get everyone vaccinated by Dec. 31. When the flu season hit recently, some employees who had resisted went ahead and got their shots, she said.
Martin said the hospital believes flu shots are a good idea, but it also tries to get everyone to wash their hands, follow good practices when they sneeze and cough, and stay home when they’re sick.
John Palmer, a spokesman for the Ohio Hospital Association, said about 85 percent of its members require employees to get flu shots.
Still, hospitals typically allow exceptions for people who cite medical or religious reasons.
Fisher-Titus encourages vaccinations but has not made them mandatory, said Dr. Gary Moorman, vice president of medical affairs at the hospital.
Moorman said he’s aware hospitals in other parts of the country have told employees to get a flu shot, or else.
“We’re trying to monitor that. If and when appropriate, we would go in that direction,” he said.
Tamara Binger, the hospital’s infection control specialist, said the vaccine is not 100 percent effective and not everyone responds well.
“There are also people who are allergic to a portion of the vaccine,” she said. “You have to take that into consideration when you’re developing a policy for mandatory vaccination.”
Magruder Hospital’s policy resembles the one at Firelands.
“While it is strongly encouraged that employees at Magruder Hospital get a flu shot, it is not required,” spokeswoman Elisabeth Brand said. “Employees choosing not to get a flu shot must fill out a declination statement citing their reason.”
The Ohio Veterans Home strongly encourages staffers to get flu shots, but it does not require it, superintendent Richard Hatcher said.
“I can tell you, I got mine,” he said. “We do provide the flu shot for free for all of our staff and residents.”
Bellevue Hospital’s spokeswoman did not return a message seeking comment.