U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman ruled in Seattle that the Virginia Mason Medical Center couldn't force nurses to take flu shots or give up their jobs. This ruling came after most nurses agreed to take the said shots.
The hospital had asked the 600-strong nursing staff to avail the flu shots as a "fitness for duty" measure. In August last year, a labor arbitrator, Eduardo Escamilla had ruled for the nurses and the Medical Center had asked the Judge to nullify this ruling. But the judge said that the arbitrator was right and "was acting within his authority and plausibly interpreted the nurses' contract." The hospital and the nurses are involved in an ongoing feud since September 2004 over the mandatory vaccination policy instituted by the hospital. Dr. Robert Rakita, chief of infectious diseases for Virginia Mason said on Thursday that he was unaware if the hospital would continue the legal proceedings. He added that nearly 90 percent of the nursing staff had availed the vaccines. "Our whole purpose was to convince people this was the right thing to do," said Rakita. "It's very clear that immunization of health-care workers is important for patient safety." Almost 50 employees had been excused from the vaccination program for religious reasons.