Results are in for Essentia Health's mandatory flu shot program

Monday marked the deadline for employees of Duluth, Minn.-based Essentia Health to receive a flu shot, obtain exemption or face termination. As of Tuesday morning, Essentia reports more than 99 percent compliance with the program. Fewer than 50 employees were fired.

This is the first year Essentia is requiring flu immunization or formal medical/religious exemption to work at the health system. The rule applies to students who train and vendors who operate at Essentia facilities, as well as volunteers who give back through Essentia programs.

"Essentia colleagues, volunteers, students and vendors have taken action in an inspiring way," said Rajesh Prabhu, MD, infectious disease and chief patient quality and safety officer for the system, in a statement shared with Becker's. "More than 99 percent of Essentia's 13,900 colleagues have made a commitment to the safety of their patients and community by receiving the flu vaccine, being approved for an exemption or in the exemption process."

The results suggest upward of 350 employees acted with days to spare before the deadline. As of midmorning Nov. 15, the system reported 97 percent compliance, with roughly 420 people at risk of termination.

Miranda Anderson, director of communications for Essentia Health, told Becker's that the system would still accommodate colleagues in need of immunization Monday. The final tally was taken upon the completion of Monday shifts. Ms. Anderson specified that fewer than 50 employees were terminated as of Tuesday morning.

While Dr. Prabhu said "patients and the community can be confident the expert care they receive at Essentia is taking place in a healing environment providing vital protection from influenza," the Minnesota Nurses Association is setting out to challenge the flu shot requirement.

The MNA, which represents about 2,000 Essentia nurses, revealed plans Monday to fight for any fired nurses by filing grievances to get them their jobs and pay back. The MNA has filed an unfair labor practice charge against the health system and plans to file grievances for fired nurses.

Essentia Health did not comment on the MNA's plans.  

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