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Published on December 11, 2017

Masking Requirements Protect Patients, Residents from Flu

In an effort to minimize the transmission of the flu and enhance patient safety, MidMichigan Health has instituted the masking component of the influenza vaccination policy effective Monday, Dec. 11. This will require employees who have not received the flu vaccine to wear a mask when within six feet of any patient or resident care area, as well as when performing patient related tasks in both patient and non-patient care areas.  MidMichigan first established this policy during the 2012 flu season.

“Influenza is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and is responsible for more than 200,000 hospital admissions and 40,000 deaths every year,” said Sue Lennon, R.N., M.S.N., C.W.C.P., director of employee health services, MidMichigan Health. “We are committed to patient safety. With the flu being highly contagious and the increase in flu activity we are now seeing, the implementation of the policy is a top and immediate priority.”

Each year, the MidMichigan Employee Health Department offers free flu vaccines for employees. This year’s vaccination schedule and notification of the policy began in September 2017. Nearly 90 percent of employees have been vaccinated to date and vaccinations continue to be available. Employees who received the vaccine were given a green checkmark sticker on their badge to identify their having been vaccinated.

Examples of patient care areas requiring a mask include patient units, areas where procedures are performed, registration, corridors and elevators utilized to transport patients, physician offices, and patient waiting areas. Examples of patient care tasks requiring a mask are: handling laundry, sterilizing equipment, food preparation.

Masking requirements will be in place in at all MidMichigan Health locations, including MidMichigan Medical Centers, urgent care locations, physician practices and MidMichigan Home Care sites for the remainder of the flu season, which typically runs to the end of April.

“Our patients are the focus of everything we do and the vaccine is just one way to protect ourselves during flu season,” said Lennon. “But, it’s also important for all of us to remember to wash your hands frequently, keep your distance if you know someone who has the flu, avoid sharing mugs, cups and utensils, and consider taking anti-viral medications if you were exposed to the flu before being vaccinated. All of these suggestions can help stop the spread of germs and the flu.”

Flu vaccinations are typically available for a fee through physician offices, the health department or drugstores. Those interested in a physician referral may call MidMichigan Health Line at (800) 999-3199 or visit www.midmichigan.org/doctors. Those interested in more information on the flu may visit www.midmichigan.org/flu.