Michigan Hospital Group Tells Employees: Get Flu Shot Or Get Fired
Mandate may already be the most charged word in the health care industry, but this is a new twist altogether. The Michigan-based Munson Healthcare group has issued a new rule requiring all its employees, including doctors, to get a flu shot by the end of the calendar year, according to an Associated Press report.
"The people we serve here are very sick," chief operating officer Kathleen McManus told the Traverse City Record-Eagle. "And I will not put a patient at risk." Indeed, McManus says that Munson was motivated to enact the policy as a response to the voluntary employee compliance rates of 65 percent.
Munson has seven hospitals covering 24 counties.
The new rule, announced by Munson via a prepared release this past week, has been met with dissatisfaction among a bloc of Munson workers. Roughly 50 made a showing at the most recent meeting of the Troy-based group, Michigan Opposing Mandatory Vaccines, also according to the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
Employees are taking issue with the principle of their employer mandating such a rule.
In interviews with the media, employees have referred to the new code as a "civil rights issue."
"I'd be willing to wear a mask rather than get a vaccination," Roberta Mesko, a Munson nurse, told the AP. "I just think we need to be able to choose to make educated decisions about what is injected into our bodies."
At least four other Michigan-based hospital operators have enacted similar policies.
Even the most casual observer of the debate over health care reform can see the overlap between that showdown and the Munson rule. Both rules have been put in place on the premise that a mandate is an acceptable resort given that the rule is being imposed on those already participating in a system. Some Munson employees inevitably will transmit contagions at their workplace, just as any American who goes without health insurance still incurs medical costs when treated at an emergency room.
But the leap has raised legal red flags, and generated distaste over the precedent of a government, or company, imposing its will on citizens. And while no further action has yet taken place at Munson, employees have already vowed to "stand their ground," and maybe even quit over the rule.
As for health care, a ruling on the constitutionality of the health care mandate seems to be in the works by next summer. The Cincinnati-based Sixth Circuit Court upheld the constitutionality of the 2010 health care law, while the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit ruled against it. Such a conflict only elevates the profile of the health care mandate for the Supreme Court when it makes its choice this fall of what cases to review for the upcoming term.
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Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.
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