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December 21, 2012

Nurses Object To Flu Face Masks

The largest nurse’s union in Massachusetts says it opposes hospital policies that require staff who have not received flu shots to wear face masks.

Harrington HealthCare System and UMass Memorial Medical Center are among hospitals in the state that have recently started to require the masks.

The MNA said in an announcement this week that there is no evidence that masks will help prevent the transmission of influenza, and they likened the policies to bullying.

“Hospitals are using this coercive tactic to boost flu vaccination rates to avoid losing Medicare funding, instead of implementing truly effective prevention strategies, including safe RN staffing,” the union said.

A piece of Medicare reimbursement is tied to a requirement that 90 percent of hospital staff receive influenza vaccinations, the union noted.

Harrington said in an announcement this month that the masks are critical to patient safety.

"We are committed to providing the safest possible environment for our patients and their families, as well as for our staff and their families,” said Edward H. Moore, president and CEO of Harrington HealthCare System. “Requiring unvaccinated employees to wear masks when they are near patients is critical to patient safety.”

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