St. Mary’s Hospital is one of nine hospitals throughout the state to receive an award for its work preventing the spread of hepatitis B.
State Health Commissioner Richard Daines visited the hospital Wednesday to congratulate the staff and administrators and present them with a certificate of excellence.
Hepatitis B is a mainly sexually transmitted disease that if neglected can cause liver disease and death. The state Department of Health began mandating in 2006 that hospitals vaccinate babies at birth. Hospitals are also required to screen pregnant women for the virus because it will most likely spread to the baby. Babies born to mothers who have tested positive for hepatitis B are given antibodies immediately after birth and then vaccinated.
To receive the award, St. Mary’s Hospital had to show 100 percent compliance with screening mothers and vaccinate 90 percent of infants born at the hospital within 12 hours of their birth. St. Mary’s was able to vaccinate 98 percent of the roughly 530 babies born at the hospital in 2009.
Daines said hospitals are “the focus of some of the most important public health initiatives.”
He recognized that the state mandates like this don’t help the hospital’s bottom line but help patients for a lifetime.
“Now that we have the vaccination we are able to control the spread of hepatitis B,” Daines said. “We can have a whole generation of people that don’t have to worry about this virus.”
Daines also recognized the achievements of the hospital’s maternity staff, who have to cram in so much information into a two-day hospital stay.
Julia Shafer, director of maternity services at the hospital, said the staff at St. Mary’s does a lot of education about the importance of the vaccination. The mother is given literature about the vaccination before she gives birth and a nurse answers any questions.
Michelle DeRossi, a nurse in the maternity unit, said most mothers are willing to have their baby vaccinated when they are born; however, she has dealt with some mothers who are opposed to the vaccination. She said she runs into this problem most frequently with the county’s Amish population.
Dr. Parul Saxena, a pediatrician at the hospital, said it was an especially difficult year convincing mothers to vaccinate their child at birth because there was so much media hype surrounding problems with the H1N1 vaccine.
“Mothers became afraid of all immunizations,” she said.
The state Department of Health began giving out the award to hospitals in 2009, based on their 2008 records. Only five hospitals received the award last year.