OSF St. Francis hosts emergency flu vaccination drill

By Mary Rose Williams

October 2, 2013 Updated Oct 7, 2013 at 11:07 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- It is flu season, and you can't be too careful if you want to stay healthy.

OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria is staying ahead of the game by hosting an emergency flu vaccination drill.

The drill serves a dual purpose. It speeds up the process of getting the hospital's 6,000 employees vaccinated and it makes sure the hospital is prepared in the event of an emergency where they have to quickly protect their workers from a flu outbreak.

"It's really important that all of our employees get vaccinated or at least decline, because we want to make sure that we're trying to protect our workforce, but we're also trying to protect the patients and the people that we serve," said Pam Lichtenstein, OSF Exercise Specialist.

"So health care workers would in fact have a priority to receive a vaccination so they can continue to work as health care workers," said Troy Erbentraut, manager of OSF's Office of Disaster Preparedness.

This year, OSF is adding to the drill by simultaneously testing the hospital's restricted access policy.

"We want to control who comes into the hospital, if there's some kind of infectious agent out there or some kind of disease outbreak or something like that," Erbentraut said.

"This gives us an opportunity to make sure our campus is capable of being secure should that ever become necessary," said Robert Anderson, executive VP & chief operating officer of OSF St. Francis.

During a lockdown, OSF employees would only be allowed to enter the building through one of three approved entrances.

If necessary the hospital is able to close the campus in as little as ten minutes.

During last year's emergency drill 75% of employees were vaccinated in the time allotted, and this year the goal is to vaccinate all 6,000 employees in 36 hours.

"It's a good idea actually," said employee Kathy Hill. "It catches people on their way in and out, so there's no hiding anywhere."

Overall, feelings about the operation were very positive. However, there are a few things officials would like to implement next year.

"With every drill that we do we always learn something," Anderson said. "We've already learned today that we want to start identifying the employees who have to decline the vaccine, so we don't keep asking them over and over again."