TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - The Oklahoma Hospital Association recently recognized W.W. Hastings Hospital for vaccinating more than 96 percent of their staff with flu shots and preventing the spread of the common illness.

The tribal hospital is among 47 in the state to meet the association’s annual challenge to vaccinate 96 percent of health care staff during the flu season.

More than 800 staff at W.W. Hastings Hospital were vaccinated.

“Year after year, the staff at W.W. Hastings Hospital remains vigilant when it comes to the health of our Cherokee Nation citizens, especially in regards to the flu season which can be a vulnerable time for some of our youngest and eldest citizens,” Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden said. “Being among the 47 hospitals in the state with the outstanding staff vaccination rates speaks to the dedication that our staff shows to preventative care, and we commend them for their efforts.”

According to a recent press release for the Oklahoma Hospital Association, hospitalized patients are particularly vulnerable to the dangers of influenza because their immune systems are often compromised by the illness that caused their admission or by the treatments they are undergoing.

“And the risk of complications from influenza is higher among the types of people who are admitted to our hospitals,” said LaWanna Halstead, vice president of quality and clinical initiatives, Oklahoma Hospital Association. “These hospitals have developed policies and processes that ensure their patients and employees are protected.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that influenza is responsible for between 9.2 million and 35.6 million illnesses, between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations, and between 12,000 and 56,000 deaths annually since 2010.

“The W.W. Hastings Hospital staff in Tahlequah works tirelessly to ensure that hospital and state standards are not just expectations, but building blocks to provide even better care,” W.W. Hastings Hospital CEO Brian Hail said. “The recognition from the Oklahoma Hospital Association is a testament to the level of care and compassion that our staff provides on a daily basis.”

The Cherokee Nation operates the largest tribal health system in the country. It oversees W.W. Hastings Hospital and nine other health centers in northeastern Oklahoma. In fiscal year 2018, the tribe had more than 1.3 million patient visits.