I received this press release from Mountain States Health Alliance this morning:

MSHA helping schools, businesses in fight against staph

Mountain States Health Alliance (MSHA) officials today announced it would make its specialized health staff available to schools and other public entities as a resource in the battle against staph and staph infection.

“Mountain States Health Alliance has the clinicians with the expertise and the experience in this national battle against staph infection,” said Dennis Vonderfecht, president and CEO of MSHA. “MSHA has been involved with national initiatives which have greatly decreased the infection rates within our hospitals.

“This is a public health issue and we are pleased to pass along the lessons we have learned in this fight. I have appointed a special task force of trained health professionals to serve as a liaison to schools, public buildings, churches and businesses which are in need of information about how best to keep their facilities safe for children, safe for teachers, safe for their employees and safe for their customers,” Vonderfecht said.

One of the MSHA programs to prevent the spread of infections among children involves numerous school systems throughout the Tri-Cities region. MSHA and GOJO, makers of PURELL® Instant Hand Sanitizer have committed to place hand sanitizing dispensers in elementary, middle and high schools. In addition, MSHA will pay for the sanitizer alcohol gel in those dispensers for the remainder of this school year.”

MSHA officials have been in discussion with schools in Johnson City, Kingsport, Bristol, Elizabethton, Washington County, Carter County, Sullivan County and Smyth (VA) County. In the near future, MSHA has plans to talk with Johnson and Wise (VA) County schools as well.

“MSHA and The Children’s Hospital at Johnson City Medical Center understand that we have a critical role in the health of children in this region,” said Vonderfecht.

“Preventing infections can be as simple as good hand hygiene, but our children need to be taught from a young age to do that hand washing. Having these hand sanitizer dispensers readily available in the schools will help that education process.”

Officials noted a recent school outcome study in which the use of PURELL, along with the implementation of a hand hygiene education program, helped reduce absenteeism due to illness by 51 percent. A workplace study showed a 21 percent reduction in absenteeism due to illness. GOJO will be providing the dispensers for the schools in this program at no charge. Schools will be expected to keep the dispensers in working condition.”

MSHA invited more schools and school systems to apply for this program. On October 31, 2007, schools will be able to submit a simple application form which will be available on http://www.msha.com. Funding for this program will be supported by the hospitals of Mountain States Health Alliance, the Mountain States Foundation, the Mountain States Auxiliary and GOJO Industries. In addition, MSHA and The Children’s Hospital at JCMC are offering educational material to all schools in the region. Additionally, MSHA invited businesses and churches to call upon them with concerns or questions about how each can help fight the spread of infections in our communities.

“Our toll-free Ask-A-Nurse service (800-888-5551) has taken hundreds of calls about this staph issue from concerned residents,” said Ed Herbert, vice president for MSHA Communications and Marketing. “Fortunately, our nurses have been there ready to help ease callers concerns and educate them about this issue. We want to take this education further into our schools, churches and businesses.”

Vonderfecht added, “The fight against infections is a battle that includes our entire community. Together, we can win this battle.”

For more information on the prevention of infections, \ncall Ask-A-Nurse at 800-888-5551 or visit www.msha.com.

MSHA facilities include the Johnson City Medical Center, The Children’s Hospital at JCMC, North Side Hospital, Johnson City Specialty Hospital, James H. & Cecile C. Quillen Rehabilitation Hospital, Woodridge Hospital, a service of JCMC, all in Washington County, Tenn.; Sycamore Shoals Hospital, Carter County, Tenn.; Johnson County Community Hospital, located in Mountain City, Tenn.; Indian Path Medical Center and Indian Path Pavilion in Sullivan County; Smyth County Community Hospital in Smyth County, Va.; Blue Ridge Medical Management Corp. (operating the First Assist Urgent Care centers, ValuCare Clinics in Food City stores and the more than 30 Blue Ridge Physician Group offices) and Medical Center HomeCare and Hospice Services throughout the Tri-Cities region.