Court grants holds on UNM Hospital flu shot policy

Posted at: 12/03/2013 2:31 PM
Updated at: 12/03/2013 5:15 PM
By: Elizabeth Reed,

A district court in Albuquerque has granted a temporary stay of disciplinary action related to a mandatory flu shot policy for UNM Hospital employees.

Under the preliminary injunction, employees cannot be disciplined or terminated if they choose not to get a flu shot. The injunction lasts until the UNM Labor-Management Board hears the union's complaint on the issue.

"We are confident the labor board will agree that the Hospital had an obligation under the UNM Labor-Management Relations Resolution to bargain with the Union regarding its plan to change bargaining unit employees' terms and conditions of employment," The National Union of Nurses and Hospital Employees said in a statement.

UNM Hospital sent a memo to employees about the immunization policy in October. The policy allowed for medical and religious exemptions, as long as the employee provided documentation from a licensed health care provider or religious leader.

The memo warned employees could face possible termination if they didn't get a shot by Dec. 1.

UNM Hospital told KOB last month the mandatory shots were suggested by doctors.

"It was actually the medical staff and physicians at UNM who have reviewed the evidence and determined that it was the absolute right thing to do for our patients," said Dr. David Pitcher, UNM's Chief Medical Officer.

According to UNM spokesman Bill Sparks, the hospital has achieved 95 percent immunization among employees since the implementation of the policy--a 20 percent increase.

Union officials told KOB both sides agree that employees should get the flu vaccine. The union just wanted to be included in the decision.

"Let's work together. Our whole intent here is to work together and do the right thing," said Bill Browne, a union representative.