Judge denies union request to block mandatory flu shot policy at Brigham and Women's Hospital

Unionized nurses at Boston-based Brigham and Women's Hospital won't get to skip out on the facility's mandatory flu shot policy — at least for now.

That's according to Suffolk Superior Court Judge Robert Tochka, who denied a request from the Massachusetts Nurses Association to immediately block the policy, reports The Boston Globe.

In September, the MNA sued the hospital over the policy that states hospital employees must receive annual flu vaccines. The union, which represents more than 3,000 Brigham nurses, claimed nurses who did not get vaccinated by the hospital's deadline Friday would be unfairly punished, possibly even terminated, according to the report. The policy does include exemptions for employees who refuse to get vaccinated for health or religious reasons. The Boston Globe reports employees who opt out of the policy must wear face masks around patients.

In his Wednesday ruling, cited in the report, Judge Tochka said, "MNA's speculative claim of potential harm to an unspecified number of unidentified nurses is not adequate to outweigh the risk of harm to the hospital, its employees, and its patients if there is an outbreak of the flu."

Union officials told The Boston Globe they continue to oppose the policy.

"We think it's a bad decision, but we've had to encourage nurses to comply with the policy," said union spokesperson David Schildmeier. "Our position remains the same. To maintain this as a fireable offense ... is really outlandish."

The hospital said in a statement the policy "was implemented to ensure we provide the highest quality, safest environment for our patients, visitors and our employees. We are gratified that the court has affirmed our right to implement this policy."

In a phone call with Becker's, hospital spokesperson Lori Schroth said Brigham had flu shot clinics throughout the day Thursday, but she could not yet say how many nurses had been vaccinated this year. She expects more details on those numbers Monday. Brigham told The Boston Globe 91 percent of all staff received flu shots last year, including 94 percent of nurses.

The report notes the MNA's lawsuit is still ongoing.

 

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