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Flu Poke

Al's to require seasonal flu shot for hospital workers

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Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center employees who refuse to get a seasonal flu shot starting this week are required to wear a mask through next April.

"We are asking them to make a conscious decision," said hospital spokeswoman Jennifer Krajnik. "They do have the option of declining, and if they do, we're asking them to wear a surgical mask between now and the end of the flu season."

St. Luke's Regional Medical Center is also asking employees to get seasonal flu shots and asking them to sign a declination if they choose not to. But St. Luke's will not require employees to wear masks around the hospital.

"We get a pretty good response," St. Luke's spokesman Ken Dey said. "About two-thirds of employees get one."

Both hospitals will also be doling out swine flu, or H1N1, shots, but because of limited supplies, they are not requiring the vaccination and are giving it first to those who work with patients.

Both major hospitals have seen huge increases in the number of people presenting themselves at the emergency room with flu-like symptoms. At Saint Al's, the number of potential flu patients has risen from about one a day to about 20, Krajnik said.

And at St. Luke's, the numbers have skyrocketed. Last weekend, more than 600 people went to the emergency room complaining of flu; only 13 were admitted.

"Most of them should be staying home and taking care of themselves," Dey said.