WRHA won’t force flu shot, mask choice

Metro Canada (Winnipeg) - - WINNIPEG - COLIN FAST win­nipeg@metronews.ca

Forc­ing hos­pi­tal staff to get vac­ci­nated could pro­vide a shot in the arm to flu- fight­ing ef­forts in Win­nipeg, ac­cord­ing to health- care ex­perts.

Data pro­vided by the Win­nipeg Re­gional Health Au­thor­ity shows only onethird of its staff had re­ceived flu shots through in- house clin­ics or mo­bile carts as of Dec. 10.

That’s well be­low ju­ris­dic­tions like Saska­toon ( 89 per cent), Van­cou­ver ( 62 per cent) or New Brunswick ( 70 per cent) where staff have to choose be­tween get­ting a nee­dle or wear­ing a mask for sev­eral months.

“Our fo­cus is on ed­u­cat­ing and build­ing aware­ness with staff of ( the flu shot’s) ben­e­fits, and find­ing ways to make it as ac­ces­si­ble and avail­able as pos­si­ble dur­ing the flu sea­son,” said a WRHA spokesper­son.

But ed­u­ca­tion doesn’t do enough to im­prove pa­tient safety, said Dr. Cory Neu­dorf, chief med­i­cal health of­fi­cer for the Saska­toon Health Re­gion.

He said staff vac­ci­na­tion rates in Saska­toon were stalled at 70 per­cent, but the new provin­cial “im­mu­nize or mask” pol­icy has sent them soar­ing.

“If you can get a high enough per­cent­age of staff to be im­mu­nized, above 80 per cent, you can help pre­vent out­breaks and pro­tect your pa­tients,” he ex­plained.

Dr. Wil­liam Ghali of the Univer­sity of Cal­gary agreed with Neu­dorf, not­ing that re­search has shown lower death rates for pa­tients in hos­pi­tals that have manda­tory vac­ci­na­tion poli­cies.

“We have to do ev­ery­thing we can to make our hos­pi­tals safer,” said Ghali. “It’s not enough to have vol­un­tary pro­grams, that higher level of obli­ga­tion is the way to go.”

So far this flu sea­son there have been five out­breaks re­ported at Man­i­toba health- care fa­cil­i­ties.

on the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s push to im­prove ed­u­ca­tion and aware­ness about the im­por­tance of be­ing vac­ci­nated against the flu virus. The WRHA warns, how­ever, that it’s also crit­i­cal for staff to have the in­fluenza vac­cine ad­min­is­tered as well.

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