Mass. General: ‘No Heroes!’ And Other Workplace Flu Protocol

Massachusetts General Hospital (Wikimedia Commons)

Massachusetts General Hospital (Wikimedia Commons)

No, we are not panicking, but yes, there’s a lot of flu about. Boston has just declared a flu-related health emergency, citing 700 confirmed cases thus far compared to 70 all last year.

In an alert to its staff, Massachusetts General Hospital reports that it’s seeing a flu season of “impressive intensity,” with an additional 40 to 80 patients with flu-like illness per day at the hospital’s health centers, outpatient clinics and emergency department.

“This has strained capacity to its limits. Likewise, many inpatient beds have been closed to isolate influenza patients, and hospital and practice staffing has been stressed by illness within their own ranks,” says the alert from Jeanette Ives Erickson, Mass. General’s senior vice president for patient care and chief nurse.

The memo lays out “best practices” for infection control that many a workplace may want to post and disseminate. To wit: (Slightly modified to remove some specifics, and still somewhat hospital-oriented)

• No Heroes! Staff with flu-like [illness] should leave the office and STAY HOME per the protocols of Occupational Health:
Do not come to work if you have a fever of 100.5°F or more and one or more of the following symptoms:
§ Runny nose or nasal congestion
§ Sore throat
§ Cough
§ Body aches

• If symptoms start at work, do not wait to report symptoms or delay leaving work, as you are potentially infectious to others. You do not need to come to Occupational Health, but should report your illness to one of the nurses.

• If you are suspected of having or it is known that you have the flu you will be required to remain out of work until your fever is gone for 24 hours (without the use of anti-fever medication).

•  Please ensure that you follow protocols for giving patients and visitors masks at the earliest opportunity.

• Please continue to actively encourage colleagues to get a flu vaccine.

• Staff who have not yet had a flu shot must wear protective masks, per MGH policy.

Readers, would you like to see anything like this up in you workplace? Other suggestions?

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  • Isobel Clinton

    This is a major drawback in the life of professors: we don’t get sick days (no one can substitute for us for more than a day–and that day only if we’re lucky and have a colleague with the same specialized knowledge who’s available and willing), and we get constant colds and flus from our heroic students, especially when they return from breaks in other regions. I’ve had two severe flus so far this year–and that often happens, never mind the constant colds. Like most of my colleagues I take zinc daily, and other precautions against lowered immunity, but the constant onslaught of infectious disease is hard to fight: I am sometimes ill most of the time from mid-October to May! I wish, since we can’t stay home when we’re sick, that our students would.

    • BostonGrad22

      A major plus….your tenure, pension, high salary (if college professor) which has driven up my tuition to skyhigh rates, summers off…and not to mention to CHOSE this profession and had to be aware of the risks of interacting with disease carrying students…BOOO freakin HOO!

      • Isobel Clinton

        For your information (as you seem not to have any): My salary is lower than that of the plumber who takes care of problems in my apartment building: I am just barely in the middle class, after 9 years of post-graduate training and as a full professor (of humanities) at 58. I work 80 to 100 hours a week, with no weekends, from mid-August to June and about 60 – 70 hours a week in summers. I take a total of 1 week off per year: 4 days at Christmas and 3 days at Thanksgiving. Before you next insult people out of the blue you might try to get some information on their working conditions (or whatever you next complain about). As a graduate you should know how to do that.

  • healthcareprof

    My son-in-law was fired from Whole Foods for not having a doctor’s note when he returned to work after a 1-day absense with norovirus. The catch: he was not yet benefits eligible so no health insurance.

  • fed up

    I know for a FACT that supermarket chains such as stop and shop, shaws, etc., are literally FORCED to go into work with these symptoms because if they do not, their jobs are threatened, or they are mistreated for taking sick time: IE: given the worst possible schedule, overlooked for promotions, overlooked for vacation date picks, etc. And these people are UNION. What good is a union if they do nothing to protect the workers? In the meantime, these people are FORCED to infect their customers and coworkers.

    • Reasonable?

      This is a problem, an economic externality.
      If the above example is true, it seems that grocery chains face no downside for compelling their employees to work sick, though it endangers the health of their consumers.

      Why not put a website where grocery chains can display what percentage of their works have been vaccinated? Maybe during flu season we should shop at the place with the best vaccination rates.

      right now the information is hidden.

      • fed up

        Yeah this is absolutely true…It is a family member of mine.

      • fed up

        Someone should be informing the dept of health about their “practices”. It is a danger to the public.

  • Carol

    I would love to see this in school systems and day care centers – for everyone.