Hospitals mandating healthy employees

Hospitals typically have code-of-conduct policies to regulate how their employees behave professionally. But what happens when hospitals mandate employees' health behaviors, such as smoking and vaccination?

More hospitals are taking an active role in their employees' health, under the assumption it might rub off on their patients or affect their bottom lines. For instance, more organizations are taking a no-smoking policy. Following in the footsteps of Cleveland Clinic with a similar policy, Central Texas Medical Center will no longer hire smokers starting on Sept. 1, reports KVUE, an ABC affiliate. In addition to screening applicants for illegal drugs, nicotine makes the list of disqualifying factors.

"If you choose to smoke, that's your right," said Hospital Marketing Director Clay Destefano in the article. "You know you can do that, but we also have a right not to hire you for that reason," he said, noting the associated insurance costs.

In another gray area of personal liberties versus employer health regulations, Intermountain Healthcare in Utah is requiring its employees to get a flu shot or face disciplinary action or termination, according to a KSL Newsradio article. In addition, Intermountain employees are required to be vaccinated for other communicable diseases, including measles, mumps, rubella, and Hepatitis B.

However, employees can opt out of the requirement for religious or health reasons, but not for ethical reasons. For example, one employee prefers not to be vaccinated because she said she is afraid of brain damage as a side effect of the vaccine.

More than 80 other health systems in the country have similar mandatory vaccination policies, according to Intermountain Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brent Wallace.

"We're doing this in effort to really provide the best safety for patients in our hospitals and clinics during flu season and to really seriously follow through on our mission to provide the best care for the patients that we can," Wallace said.

For more information:
- see the KVUE report
- read the KSL Newsradio article

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