WRHA won’t force flu shot, mask choice
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.