CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A South Charleston hospital is being sued by a nurse who says she was required to get a flu shot despite being allergic to the vaccine.
Susan Dean’s lawsuit said a new policy at Thomas Memorial Hospital required her to prove her allergy, even though she had an immediate reaction to a flu shot administered by another Thomas nurse 15 years ago.
Dean filed the lawsuit last week in Kanawha County Circuit Court, the Charleston Gazette reported.
Dean has been employee of the hospital for more than 30 years. To keep her job, the lawsuit says Dean underwent allergy testing in October 2013 and had a reaction. Since then, she has been hospitalized several times and is unable to work, the lawsuit said.
Thomas Memorial’s policy, which was implemented in September 2013, requires all health care workers, including volunteers and chaplains, to receive yearly flu shots. The hospital would grant exemptions if an employee had a statement from a doctor saying the employee was allergic to eggs, which would be verified through allergy testing at the employee’s expense; a previous episode of Gullian-Barre, a rare disorder where the body’s immune system attacks its nervous system, or upon recommendation from a doctor for a pregnant employee.
Hospital spokeswoman Paige Johnson told there also exemptions for religious reasons.
Employees who refuse to be immunized and who are found to not be exempt initially face a 30-day suspension without pay. They would be fired if they do not comply by the end of the suspension period.
Johnson said most medical facilities use the policy, which was set by The Joint Commission, an independent national organization that certifies thousands of health care organizations.
She declined to comment about Dean’s lawsuit. But she said the hospital considers exemption cases carefully.
“We have an entire team of infection control nurses and they are very aware of individual situations and we make provisions for those,” Johnson told the newspaper.
In addition to damages, the lawsuit seeks to require medical professionals to undergo training to deal with employees’ allergy to the flu vaccine.