It’s the start of flu season and you might be worried about the spread of germs. We’re worried too. Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project released a report today that found nearly half of all hospital workers in California didn’t get flu shots during the 2008-2009 flu season.

Outbreaks of hospital-acquired flu have been shown to occur in all hospital wards and units including transplant, oncology, and emergency departments. The median mortality rate during hospital-acquired influenza outbreaks in acute care facilities has been documented at 16 percent with an average additional cost of $7,500 per case.

That hospital patient could be you or me, and when healthcare workers aren’t vaccinated, it’s possible we could catch the flu from them.

Publishing vaccination rates of healthcare workers can encourage better behavior among hospitals and healthcare workers. California is required by law to collect and publish healthcare worker vaccination data. Hospitals were required to start reporting data to the Department in January 2008. The Department was supposed to report the 2008-2009 flu vaccination data to the public by March 2010. Earlier this year, we filed a Public Records Request and after several months, we obtained the data. Unfortunately the hospital-specific data we received was sloppy and full of holes, which the Department partially attributed to hospital confusion about the reporting process and they claimed that they lost some reports. Whatever the excuse, 31% of hospitals in the state didn’t report their vaccination rate to the health department despite the law requiring it.

We did our best to analyze the California data and you can read our full report here.

The public has a right to know how their hospital is stacking up when it comes to protecting them from the flu.The LA Times covered our report as well as the Associated Press. We hope our report will call attention to the fact that the Department hasn’t done its job to make sure hospitals are doing what they should do to protect patients from the flu.