On Oct. 16 in Albany, State Supreme Court Justice Thomas J. McNamara issued a temporary restraining order to halt enforcement of a New York State regulation requiring that all healthcare workers be vaccinated for the seasonal flu and swine flu. A hearing on the matter has been scheduled for Oct. 30.
The restraining order comes in response to a suit brought by three emergency room nurses at Albany Medical Center. The nurses’ suit asserted that the regulation, issued Aug. 13 by State Health Commissioner Dr. Richard F. Daines through the State Hospital Review and Planning Council, violated their civil rights. Justice McNamara consolidated the nurses’ suit with other lawsuits, brought by two other unions.
Earlier this week, Suzanne Field, a NYSNA member from the Poughkeepsie area, also filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court in Manhattan. Although a restraining order was denied in that proceeding, a hearing was scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 22. About 25 NYSNA members and staff attended the Manhattan legal proceeding and were prominent in the courtroom. Field’s case will proceed, despite the Albany restraining order.
While encouraging nurses to voluntarily receive flu vaccine, the New York State Nurses Association opposes mandatory flu vaccination as a condition of employment.
The State Department of Health has issued a letter to hospital administrators, stating in part, “A temporary restraining order was issued October 16 regarding the mandatory healthcare worker influenza vaccination regulation. Until this case is decided on the merits, the Department of Health can not enforce the emergency influenza regulation. This decision does not restrain a covered facility (hospital, diagnostic and treatment center, home health care agency, long term care program, hospice program) from voluntarily offering the influenza vaccines (seasonal and 2009 H1N1) to affected healthcare workers.”
The New York State Nurses Association is the voice for nursing in the Empire State. With more than 37,000 members, it is the state's largest union and professional association for registered nurses. It supports nurses and nursing practice through education, research, legislative advocacy, and collective bargaining.