HCA Healthcare
February 25, 2019

SOURCE: Asheville Citizen Times

AUTHOR: John Boyle

Mission Hospital does have a policy requiring vaccinations for staff but some exemptions are allowed. (Photo11: Mark Lennihan/AP)

Today’s batch of burning questions, my smart-aleck answers and the real deal:

Question: I'm almost afraid to ask you this question, given the permissive attitude of the residents of this city regarding vaccinations. My friend and neighbor is having weekly chemotherapy treatments at the Cancer Center at Mission Hospital. He has told me that on three occasions he had treatments administered by different hospital employees wearing face masks. When he inquired as to why, he was told that they hadn't had the DPT vaccination, and proceeded to explain why no one should have it and how they supported the anti-vaccination group in Asheville. They said they were required by Mission to wear a face mask; presumably, otherwise they wouldn't. I hope, from the bottom of my heart, that you will tell me that he was mistaken, that he didn't have Mission employees proselytizing the anti-vaccination message as they infused my friend with chemotherapy drugs. Please tell me that Mission Hospital insists on vaccinations for each and every one of its employees, whether at a desk job or handling tiny, vulnerable newborns. To me and to all of my acquaintances, the fact that one has to prove that their dog is vaccinated before they can use a kennel or, in some cases, a dog park and yet we let unvaccinated children, with a piece of paper in hand, mingle with other elementary school students, is beyond understanding. At the very least, they should require that these parents have a notarized document from their religious leader verifying their claim as to religious exemption. In the case of Mission Hospital employees, we can only hope that common sense takes precedence over political correctness.

My answer: I'm not sure my basset hounds have more sense about vaccinations than humans, but I get your drift. Because, for the record, basset hounds have zero sense.

The main visitor entrance to Mission Hospital. (Photo11: Angeli Wright/awright@citizen-times.com)

Real answer: Mission Hospital spokeswoman Nancy Lindell took this one on.

"All employed staff, including employed physicians working in any Mission Health facility, are required to have evidence of immunity or vaccination as a required condition of employment for the following: rubeola (measles), mumps, rubella, (German measles), varicella (chickenpox), annual flu vaccine; Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis)," Lindell said. "Additional immunizations may be required in response to a public health emergency and as directed by the CDC, OSHA regulations, local health departments or the state of North Carolina and approved by the chair of the Infection Prevention Control Committee."

As you can imagine, hospitals and their employees are exposed to a lot of bugs.

"Maintenance of immunity is an essential part of infection prevention for health care employees who are, by the nature of their work, at risk for exposure to, and possible transmission of, vaccine-preventable diseases," Lindell said. "Vaccines protect patients and safeguard health care workers and their families from becoming infected through exposure."

So, does the hospital allow exemptions?

"Requests for medical exemptions are reviewed by a provider from staff health services, and decisions are made utilizing evidence-based medical guidelines," Lindell said. "Medical exemption from one vaccination does not constitute exemption from all vaccinations."

I've asked for specifics on numbers of employees with exemptions, but that was taking a little more time to gather. I'll update you when it comes in.

This is the opinion of John Boyle. Contact him at 828-232-5847 or jboyle@citizentimes.com.