Local Hospitals Try to Protect Employees from Flu - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

10/15/04

Local Hospitals Try to Protect Employees from Flu

There have been no flu cases in Lubbock yet so there's still time to prepare for this season, but healthcare workers are on the CDC's list as high risk. Once flu season breaks, they'll be coming in contact with the virus on a regular basis and many work with patients who have compromised immune systems. That's why employees at both Covenant Medical Center and University Medical Center are taking every precaution they can.

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Learn more about the flu and what you can do to avoid getting sick.

Greg Bruce with University Medical Center says, "Our employees are working very hard to make sure they use good infection control that they use year round. A lot of exposure to the flu can be minimized if you wash your hands, if you do basic things you should do every time anyway."

Employees at UMC don't know when they'll be getting their much needed flu shots. That leaves 1,500 people without the vaccine who work directly with patients. Bruce says, "Basically there's two suppliers. There's Chiron, the group from Great Britain whose supply was suspended from shipment, and then there's also Advantis. Covenant was lucky they ordered from Advantis and we ordered from Chiron."

Just a few blocks away, employees at Covenant started getting their doses on Thursday. Jacque Smith, A nurse and worker in Covenant's occupational health office says, "We're just glad we got the vaccine and we're able to do this."

Covenant Hospital received about 2,500 flu shots to administer to their employees. By Friday's end they were on their way to having about 2,000 of them given out. Smith says, "Everyone that works in the healthcare system is exposed to the community as well as being on the floors with patients. Even in food services, they go up on floors as well, so they're just as exposed as nurses and physicians are."

In the meantime back at UMC, employees will diligently prevent the flu from spreading the old fashioned way and hope the flu vaccine arrives before the flu hits. Vasia Craddick who works in UMC's Southwest Cancer Center says, "I'm not worried for myself personally, but I am worried about those that are immuno compromised and those who are high risk patients. They are in need of the flu vaccine."

Both hospitals will likely take the brunt of a busy flu season this year. With most hospital beds full, it could be challenging to care for people who are hospitalized for an extended time because of the flu.

With a shortage of flu vaccines, the flu mist is an alternative for some, but that won't work for hospital employees. That's because flu mist contains a live virus and it could be transferred to someone with a compromised immune system.

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