Let's hope this flu remedy goes viral

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James M. Berklan, McKnight's Editor
James M. Berklan, McKnight's Editor

Some people might dream of owning a professional football or baseball team. Right now, I'm wishing I owned a nursing home. Then I could immediately fire all the people who deserved it.

I would start with a one-question survey: “If you haven't been vaccinated against the flu, will you do so now?” A negative answer would get you immediately fired. No further questions. Buh-bye now, and don't let the door hit you on the way out.

You want to work with some of society's most elderly and frail residents yet you don't think it's worth taking precautions? Go ahead and walk around an active construction site without a helmet on (if OSHA would let you, that is). Practice all the unprotected sex you want among a compromised group of individuals. Drive on the other side of the highway. You don't even have to fasten your seatbelt.

Do whatever you want. Just don't ask to work in my nursing home. You're free to apply where you want; I'm free to not hire anyone I don't want. And if you don't think enough of my residents — OUR residents — to take precautionary measures, well … words wouldn't do that scenario justice.

After reading in recent days about the nationwide sweep of flu cases, it boggles the mind how anyone could remain recalcitrant on this issue. We're not even headed for a record severe season, according to experts' early estimates. But it will be harsher than average, and certainly more severe than the past few years, they say.

These are federal and local experts weighing in. This isn't Pinterest or fear-mongering Facebook jabber. If the vaccine were so dangerous or truly ill-advised, then hundreds, if not thousands, of dutiful healthcare professionals and members of the public would have been part of their own public health calamity by now.

Current conditions led Boston Mayor Thomas Menino to declare a public health emergency Wednesday morning. His city and Massachusetts in general have 10 times as many flu cases than a year ago. As a result, they're offering free vaccines to the public – much as many long-term care facilities do for their employees.

It should be all long-term care facilities, as far as I'm concerned. About 3 in 10,000 Americans 65 or older have been hospitalized with the flu so far this season — that's about 30 times the rate of last year, experts point out.

It must not be forgotten that the over-65 crowd is usually the hardest hit by the flu. They are the most likely to develop pneumonia or other life-threatening complications. Every year, seniors lead all other demographics in dying from flu complications.

Marian Manor in South Boston is one facility that has taken the extreme step of asking even residents' family members to stay away, according to an article appearing at boston.com. “If family members really want to visit, we can make accommodations, but we're asking if they had a flu shot,” acknowledged Assistant Administrator Novel Igor.

Family members. Hoping to visit their loved ones. Advised to stay away. Unless they had a flu shot.

And just what again, defiant caregiver, was your excuse for not wanting to be vaccinated to thwart the acquisition or spread of influenza in my nursing home?

Get out. Now.

Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.