Providers fight flu with hygiene

Friday, February 21, 2014

YARMOUTH, Maine – With flu activity elevated nationally, HME providers are doing their part to stay healthy by hand washing, and wearing gloves and masks.

“The mantra is wash, glove, wash,” said Chris Rice, CEO of Diamond Respiratory Care. “That’s all the time, that’s every patient we see. That’s why we buy so many gloves.”

For the week of Feb. 2-8, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the national proportion of people seeing their healthcare provider for influenza-like illness decreased slightly for the sixth week, but remains above the national baseline.

In addition to gloves, providers buy a lot of masks and a lot of hand sanitizer, which they place everywhere.

“When you work in this industry, you’re very cognizant,” said Bonnie Niven, director of human resources and corporate compliance for Cape Medical Supply. “It’s not just about flu season, but any season, because we work together, as well as with the public.”

Like other providers, Wheatfield, N.Y.-based Health System Services focuses on hygiene, including disinfectants for doors, desks, phones and more.

“We do make efforts to be more health conscious and more proactive during flu season because the last thing you want is a bug to go through the office and have a lot of downtime,” said Douglas Mooradian, marketing and human resources director.

Some providers even pay for employee flu vaccines, or offer shots onsite.

But, despite the best intentions, some employees still get sick. When that happens, providers ask them to stay home.

“We have a lot of clinicians here; they know the drill,” said Rice. “We’re a respiratory-focused company so we certainly couldn’t knowingly send somebody ill to a respiratory-compromised patient.”

As for the providers themselves, they say they’re at no greater risk of contracting the flu than anyone else. Rick Wilson, vice president of Apguard Medical, says working with patients may have strengthened his immune system.

“I can’t remember the last time an employee said they got sick from a patient,” he said.

The CDC reports that flu activity is likely to continue for several more weeks.