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COMMUNITY VOICE

Real losers in firing Goshen nurses for refusing flu shots are patients

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 - 12:01 am

Darkness. I thought I must be dead. Then a light. A voice. Human. Slowly my eyes adjusted and then my brain. A nurse.

“You’re doing great. The doctor is very happy. He even told me to take out some of your tubes.”

I looked up, and she was smiling. I will never forget her, her words and her smile. I had just awakened from a 14-hour open-heart surgery. And I knew in that moment I would be OK. I had survived.

My first thought was not, “I hope she got her flu shot.”

I have some degree of expertise on nurses, having been a guest in every hospital in Fort Wayne over the past two decades. They are angels. Heart surgery. Heart attack. Hernia surgery. Stroke. Broken elbow. Hit by a truck. Concussion. Doctors saved me. Nurses put up with me.

In the middle of the night, they gave me shots. They fed me. They held me up so I could walk. They encouraged me. They gave me medicine. They changed my sheets. They dumped my bedpan. I press a button and there is a nurse. They are worth their weight in gold. They are indispensable. They should be paid more than a professional athlete. When you’re in pain in the hospital and desperate for relief, who would you rather see, a nurse or Peyton Manning?

So I was more than upset when I read that eight nurses at Goshen Hospital were fired for refusing to take a flu shot. Women who devoted their lives to helping others, fired. I couldn’t believe it. Then I got to thinking. They were fired to set an example, to instill fear in me, in you, in everyone, into getting a flu shot. The hospital had made it mandatory.

One nurse named Ethel Hoover had worked there over 20 years and was considered a leader by the other nurses, the nurse everyone looked up to for her dedication and her skill. She had missed in all that time five days of work. Her reward? Fired. That’s how the American medical profession shows its gratitude.

Oh, you believe the hospital spokeswoman who says it was for patient safety? Please. These nurses are the reason patients are safe. Hospitals aren’t in general the healthiest places to be, but when’s the last time you heard a patient say, “Darn that nurse for not getting a flu shot. She gave me the flu.”

As one of the fired nurses, Joyce Gingerich, said in explaining why she refused, “I believe the flu shot has a lot of adverse reactions, and so I choose not to put it into myself.”

If anyone would know the risk involved in putting a foreign substance into her body, it would be a nurse. She also points out the hospital failed to provide concrete medical evidence that the flu vaccine would actually prevent employees from passing the flu to patients. She’s right. A TV station in Minneapolis early in January ran a piece pointing out that the shot is effective in only 59 percent of adults and that many patients in the hospital suffering from flu had gotten a flu shot, leading Dr. Mike Osterholm to say, “We think we can do much better.”

He should know. He’s the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. Nurses are fired for refusing a shot that clearly does not result in a 100 percent prevention of the flu. Here’s what freedom is in America: You are free to have an assault weapon and use it to murder 20 kids, but you’re not free to decide what substance goes into your body. Of course if you want to get a flu shot, by all means do. But it should be your choice.

So why is it mandatory? The American system of medicine is first and foremost for profit. That’s why Americans do not have universal health coverage like all other industrialized countries, unless of course you’re a member of the lawmaking body that denies you coverage called Congress, which enjoys the finest health plan we can buy for them. So the primary purpose of the flu vaccine is to generate a lot of money for the drug companies that make it.

To make the money they have to have customers. A lot of customers. The best way to get customers is force. The drug companies spend a lot of money trying to convince you that you will get the flu if you don’t take the shot. They pay doctors to tell you that you need the vaccine and not to worry, it’s safe. Based on what?

Studies the drug companies pays for. Their priority is profit, not patient safety.

As a result, America spends more on health care than any other country with dismal outcomes, such as the lowest life expectancy of 17 countries studied in a recent report by the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. Ethel Hoover and Joyce Gingerich and the other six nurses are heroes. They stood up against the American medical establishment. For their courage, they lost their jobs, which make the real losers their patients.

Terry Doran is a resident of Fort Wayne.