News 8 asked other Connecticut hospitals about their employee flu shot policy:
Bridgeport Hospital: Employees who do not get a flu shot or fill out an explanation form will not be scheduled to work and will not be paid.
Yale-New Haven Hospital: "we strongly encourage all employees to get their flu shots..." but it is not mandatory.
Danbury Hospital; Employees must state wether they have had a flu shot. Those who have not will be required to wear a face mask when in contact with patients.
Updated: Friday, 30 Nov 2012, 10:42 PM EST
Published : Friday, 30 Nov 2012, 7:16 PM EST
WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) -- Waterbury Hospital says their employees have to get the flu vaccine for the sake of their patients but the union says the policy goes too far. Workers protesting the policy are now being punished for it.
Karen McKinnon walked out of Waterbury Hospital with her union reps and supporters around her. She had just been suspended, two weeks without pay, for refusing to get a flu shot.
"Because it's a violation of my rights and i don't believe any employer should force, coerce or threaten any employee to receive a vaccination they're opposed to just to keep their job," McKinnon said.
She's wary of some of the ingredients in the vaccination -- formaldehyde, mercury, and illuminum.
McKinnon is a nurses assistant in the OR and says they scrub down before going near any patient and she wears a mask.
She does not feel like she's putting patients who may have compromised immune systems at risk.
"I've worked here 32 years and I think the last time i received a vaccination was 17 or 18 years ago, got sick after I took it, didn't take another one ever again and was never treated for the flu," McKinnon said.
Dr. Steven Aronin, the Chief of the Infectious Disease Section says scrubbing and wearing masks is not enough.
"Anybody who works in Waterbury Hospital, who goes into our cafeteria, who walks the halls of our hospital could have the flu and somebody else who does take care of them- immuno compromised patients, they could pick it up and bring it onto their patients," Dr. Aronin said.
Waterbury Hospital is one of 19 in the state that's making flu vaccines mandatory and Karen McKinnon isn't the only one balking at it.
"We are America, free country, it's our body, we know what's wrong, we know how we feel," Carol Graham a Clinical Information Associate said.
"I'm more than willing to wear a mask, I'm more than willing to take other measures, I just really prefer not to be injected for a substance I'm not prepared for. There's risk of death of the flu shot," hospital worker Pam Curley said.
The union says they believe people should get flu shots but they don't believe it should be mandatory. They're not filing a grievance saying it violates federal labor laws and HIPA because employees' tags now show their flu shot status with this yellow sticker.
"All of a sudden it's not so private," a hospital worker said.
The hospital says patient care trumps their right to choose.
"There are other things we ask of our employees when they get hired by Waterbury Hospital. They need to show they've been vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella," Dr. Aronin said.