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Article published October 10, 2012
Mask fight misguided
Amesh A. Adalja, M.D. Penn Township Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
The Service Employees International Union, which represents health care workers at the Butler County taxpayer-owned Sunnyview Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, in a misguided attempt to flex the union’s power, would unnecessarily abet the spread of influenza in Sunnyview if its grievance succeeds in allowing influenza vaccine non-compliant employees to avoid wearing a mask. Influenza vaccination should be a condition of employment in all health care facilities. Those employees who do not comply should be dismissed, because they are electing to let themselves become components of the transmission belt of the virus — a paradoxical position for any health care worker. Multiple studies have shown that intra-facility spread of influenza among patients and staff is both serious and costly. The county, by allowing the mask option (which will likely not be complied with reliably), is already conceding too much and should not allow the SEIU to further jeopardize patient safety.