Published December 11. 2012 4:00AM
Many unions have effectively championed such worthwhile worker causes as job safety, equal pay, insurance, paid sick leave and other benefits - but any labor leader who objects to new rules requiring flu shots for hospital employees in Connecticut should be quarantined.
Unions at Windham Hospital in Willimantic and Natchaug Hospital in Mansfield are speciously calling their parent Hartford Healthcare network "heavy-handed" for requiring employees either to receive flu immunizations or to obtain exemptions based on medical or religious grounds - in which case they would have to wear face masks.
This newspaper not only squarely supports the hospitals in this reasonable requirement, we feel it doesn't go far enough. We encourage all healthcare facilities to mandate employee immunizations not just against influenza, but also against such highly communicable but easily preventable diseases as diphtheria, measles and pertussis.
Records show hospitals across the country that require flu immunizations have fewer outbreaks of the disease.
Conversely, outbreaks of other childhood diseases including measles and pertussis, or whooping cough, have spiked because of declining immunizations.
Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in New London and the William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich both reported few problems Monday in enforcing their flu immunization policies.
L&M instituted a policy last year that requires its 3,000 employees to receive vaccinations by Dec. 24. Those who sign declination forms who come into contact with patients must wear masks until April 1, when the flu season ends.
L&M spokesman Mike O'Farrell said about 90 percent of employees have been immunized, and those who refuse must wear the masks or face suspension.
At Backus, where the new policy went into effect Dec. 1, spokesman Shawn Mawhiney reported 99 percent compliance among its 1,800 employees, 300 doctors and 300 volunteers.
"It's gone very smooth," he said, adding that getting the immunization is "a no-brainer" for the employee, the hospital and its patients.
This newspaper also questions so-called religious exemptions and urges hospitals to eliminate these grounds for refusal to get immunized.
So-called religious freedom does not constitute the right to infect non-believers.