2012-10-11 / News

RI healthcare workers must be immunized

The Rhode Island Department of Health recently announced it has adopted new amendments to its rules and regulations for immunization and testing for healthcare workers that will make flu immunizations mandatory for all workers, students, trainees and volunteers who routinely have direct contact with patients at a healthcare facility.

“[The department] listened closely to all stakeholders and used that feedback to craft amendments that addressed the concerns of healthcare workers and volunteers, while protecting patients from the threat of influenza,” said Michael Fine, director of the health department.

Healthcare workers and volunteers who have a medical reason for not getting a flu shot may obtain a medical exemption from their doctor, licensed physician’s assistant, or licensed nurse practitioner. This exemption must be renewed annually and submitted to the employing facility by Dec. 15 each year.

Healthcare workers and volunteers who are opposed to having a flu shot but are not medically exempt must submit a form annually by Dec. 15 that states their refusal to be immunized against influenza. It will also indicate their understanding that they are obligated to wear a surgical face mask during direct patient contact during any declared period in which the flu is widespread. Healthcare facilities will notify all workers that a period in which flu is widespread has been declared for the facility.

“Those who care for and interact with patients in a healthcare setting have a duty to protect the health and safety of those for whom they care,” said Fine. “A flu shot for all those who interact with patients as part of their employment or volunteer efforts at a healthcare facility is the best way to prevent the spread of influenza to some of our state’s most vulnerable populations.”

The regulations do not apply to patient family members or to friends who visit or otherwise assist in the care of that patient in a healthcare facility.

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