Kaweah Delta Medical Center’s staff influenza vaccination rate has been 98 percent for the past two years, exceeding national goal
VISALIA – The public is constantly urged by hospitals and health care professionals to be vaccinated for the flu. Flu vaccines keep detrimental symptoms at bay and emergency rooms less crowded. But little thought is given to the staff who work with patients day in and day out.
Over the last two years Kaweah Delta’s efforts to help their staff stave off the flu has made them a leader, along with five other hospitals, in the state.
According to Kaweah Delta’s Infection Prevention Manager, Shawn Elkin, Kaweah Delta’s staff influenza vaccination rate has been 98 percent, which exceeds the national Healthy People goal of 90 percent. Kaweah Delta’s staff influenza vaccination rate ranked the hospital in a tie for the fifth highest in the state beside Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, USC Kenneth Norris Jr. Cancer Hospital, UC San Diego Health Hillcrest and La Jolla Jacobs Medical Center, both in San Diego, according to a new report published by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).
“This is really impressive and no small undertaking,” Elkin said. “With healthcare personnel influenza vaccination rates of 98 percent for two years straight; these results are evidence that healthcare personnel at Kaweah Delta are concerned about the patients they care for.”
Influenza vaccination coverage among health care personnel is an important measure of a hospital’s health care quality, according to CDPH. Health care personnel who receive annual influenza vaccination make an important contribution to prevent transmission of influenza to high-risk patients, their families, and the community.
Kaweah Delta, which has seen a 21 percent increase in the number of staff getting a flu vaccination since 2015-16, is also a key player in helping increase the aggregate healthcare personnel vaccination rate in California hospitals from 72 percent to 84 percent in the 2017-18 flu season, according to the report. Back in 2015-16, Kaweah Delta began requiring all staff to either get a flu vaccination or wear a face mask during cold and flu season. Since that time, Kaweah Delta’s rate has gone from 77 percent to 98 percent, Elkin said.
Also in an effort to keep patients safe, Kaweah Delta has a year-round visitor policy in place, which helps facilitate a quiet, healing environment for patients, said Kathy Wittman, Kaweah Delta’s Infection Prevention Data Coordinator. The policy notes that the minimum age a person can be to visit patient floors is age 12, otherwise they can wait in the hospital’s lobbies accompanied by an adult (unless they have received special approval for extenuating circumstances).
There is still time to get a flu vaccination, even if people have already had the flu, Wittman said. “It is possible to have the flu more than once in the season. This flu vaccine is a good match; it was updated this year to provide better coverage to the different strains of the flu,” she said.
When people experience cold and flu symptoms, Kaweah Delta is urging the public to seek care from their personal physicians for conditions that are not life-threatening or will not require hospitalization. When that is not possible or the condition is urgent, but not life-threatening, people are urged to visit an urgent care facility or a walk-in clinic instead of the emergency department.
Additionally during this time period, Kaweah Delta is urging patients for their protection and for the protection of others coming to the emergency department, to bring just one guest.