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Influenza Vaccinations a Top Priority at Christian Health

Health-care experts are predicting that the 2019/2020 influenza (flu) season will be particularly worse than previous years. At a late-2019 press conference held at Christian Health (CHCC), media, other health-care providers, and community members gathered to recognize CHCC as an Honor Roll Facility (achieving two consecutive years) by the Immunization Action Coalition. Attendees were also briefed on how CHCC is leading the way as a health-care provider proactively taking aggressive measures to minimize exposure of the flu virus to patients, residents, clients, staff, and volunteers across its three northern New Jersey campuses.

“CHCC employs more than 900 staff and engages over 200 active volunteers to deliver clinical, administrative, and other support services to nearly 1,000 residents, patients, clients, and consumers on any given day,” said Steve Dumke, LNHA, CHCC Executive Vice President and COO. “In an effort to foster health, healing, and wellness at CHCC and in our communities, we wanted to share how we successfully implemented a flu-vaccination policy and aggressive action plan for all staff, contract employees, and volunteers to receive 100-percent compliance.”

The flu is a highly contagious respiratory infection that can cause mild to severe illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that each year up to 960,000 hospitalizations and as many as 79,000 deaths occur in the United States from flu-related complications. It also reported that the flu causes American employees to miss approximately 17 million workdays at an estimated $7 billion a year in lost days and productivity.

“Older people, young children, and individuals with certain health conditions are at an especially high risk for serious flu complications. The flu vaccine can reduce the risk of infection by up to 60 percent. Side effects are minor and can include soreness, redness, and/or swelling where the injection was given; low-grade fever; and aches,” said Allen Khademi, MD, CHCC’s Vice President of Medical Affairs, “And even if you do get the flu after being vaccinated, the flu vaccine can reduce the severity of your illness.”

The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first line of protection against the flu. Proper hand washing is equally as important in preventing the spread of germs.

In an effort to protect every person on CHCC’s Wyckoff and Wayne campuses, the facility developed a mandatory flu-vaccination policy for all employees, contractors, and active volunteers. This policy is a condition of employment and volunteering.

“Per CHCC policy, all employees, contractors, and active volunteers accept the flu vaccine, which is administered free-of-charge by our Employee Health Department, provide an attestation that the flu vaccine was received elsewhere, or decline the flu vaccine for an approved contraindication and wear a mask provided by CHCC in all patient-care areas during a time period determined by our Influenza Work Group,” explained Rebecca Dauerman, APN, CHCC’s Chief Nursing Office and Vice President/Administrator of Mental Health Services.

CHCC achieved 100-percent compliance of its annual flu-vaccination policy for the 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 flu seasons and was identified in early 2019 as an Honor Roll Facility by the Immunization Action Coalition, a national group that tracks and reports on hospital and long-term care facility flu-vaccination outcomes. CHCC is well on its way to making the Honor Roll for the 2019/2020 flu season with 100-percent compliance with the policy before November 30, 2019.

“As a premier 2019 – Gold Excellence in Quality Award recipient which has been serving the community for 109 years, CHCC is leading the way to ensure that the risk of spreading the flu is mitigated as much as possible,” Mr. Dumke said. “We encourage other health-care organizations to engage in and support methods to protect those they care for, their employees, and their families from the flu virus.”

CHCC Once Again Recognized for Clinical Excellence. New Jersey Department of Health in partnership with New Jersey Hospital Association award CHCC’s Long-term Care Services with Antimicrobial Stewardship Program Silver recognition and Ramapo Ridge Behavioral Health with Bronze recognition.

New Jersey Hospital Association (NJHA) reports that antibiotics are some of the most widely prescribed drugs in medical practice, yet, according to the CDC, up to 50 percent of all antibiotics prescribed are either not necessary or are not effective as prescribed; this has become widely recognized as a top public health priority. Antibiotic stewardship initiatives are a crucial measure in preventing the overuse and misuse of antimicrobials.

Overuse of antibiotics can potentially lead to infections like C. difficile (C. diff), a dangerous infection that causes illnesses ranging from diarrhea to sepsis and even death. C. diff is estimated by the CDC to have caused almost half a million infections in the United States in 2011. Approximately 83,000 of the patients who developed the infection experienced at least one recurrence, and 29,000 people died within 30 days of the initial diagnosis. The economic impact of C. diff is similarly devastating. According to the CDC, C. diff alone cost at least $1 billion in extra health-care costs annually.

NJHA also notes that inappropriate antibiotic use can also lead to antibiotic-resistant (AR) organisms. Persons infected with AR organisms are more likely to require longer hospital stays, require combinations of antimicrobials, and require the use of drugs considered second or third choice. These factors are often associated with greater toxicity and length of hospitalization, as well as higher cost of care. In addition to direct patient harm, AR in the United States costs an estimated $20 billion a year in healthcare costs, $35 billion in other societal costs, and more than 8 million additional days spent in the hospital by patients.

Preventing AR and C. diff requires hospitals to use a proactive approach that includes antimicrobial stewardship, clinician education, and patient and family engagement around proper use of antibiotics.

Ramapo Ridge Behavioral Health at CHCC was recently awarded with Antimicrobial Stewardship Program Bronze recognition, another significant achievement of clinical excellence. CHCC’s long-term care services were awarded Antimicrobial Stewardship Program Silver recognition.

“Becoming an Antibiotics Aware Steward and receiving the Silver and Bronze level awards by the New Jersey Department of Health is an integral step that demonstrates our ongoing commitment for optimal patient care, treatment, and safety,” said Dr. Khademi.