Area clinics oppose bill letting health care workers refuse flu shots

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Getting a flu shot may become optional for health care workers under a new bill, but not all clinics and doctor’s offices are on board with the proposal.

Wisconsin law doesn't require flu shots for health care workers but some hospitals, nursing homes and clinics do.

So, state Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt R-Fond du Lac, said health care workers should have the ability to opt out for personal reasons.

Thiesfeldt wasn’t available for comment but his research assistant Hariah Hutkowski said the proposal centers around personal freedom.

“The bottom line, it's a liberty issues,” said Hutkowski. “One should have control of their own personal healthcare without a fear of losing one's job.”

Nichole Marty with OakLeaf Pediatrics in Eau Claire said all employees receive the flu shot for patient safety.

“Specifically, for us in pediatrics, babies under 6 months of age don't get a flu shot,” explained Marty. “So, we know that if we're not protected we could pass that on to a newborn and it's heartbreaking to see a newborn with influenza.”

Marty said even if the bill does pass, health care workers at OakLeaf Pediatrics who opt out of getting a flu vaccination will be required to wear masks during the work day in order to protect their young patients from catching influenza.

Marty said, “We would make sure that all of our employees, all of our providers, all the way down to front staff would be either vaccinated or wearing a mask.”

However, Hutkowski said employees are patients too.

Hutkowski said, “You allow patients to deny any treatment whatsoever under the idea that we have to make our own healthcare decisions and aren't employee's patients as well?”

In a statement Mayo Clinic Health System said it joins the Wisconsin Hospital Association's opposition to the bill.

The clinic said:

“Influenza is a serious disease and can be life-threatening. It is highly contagious. Vaccinations help keep our patients and staff safe, which is our priority.”

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