Mask-up when vis­it­ing Toko­roa Hospi­tal

South Waikato News - - Your Paper, Your Place - DONNA-LEE BID­DLE

Vis­i­tors to Waikato hos­pi­tals who haven’t had their flu jab will be met with blue masks.

The new hard­line stance, an ex­ten­sion of the staff pol­icy which came into ef­fect last flu sea­son, will now make it manda­tory for vis­i­tors to wear a mask if they haven’t vac­ci­nated against in­fluenza.

But the move has riled the nurses’ union, who say members feel co­erced and dis­crim­i­nated against.

But Waikato District Health Board chief ex­ec­u­tive Nigel Mur­ray makes no apolo­gies, say­ing health­care work­ers need to set an ex­am­ple.

The pol­icy in­cludes staff and vis­i­tors to Toko­roa, Waikato, Thames, Te Kuiti and Tau­marunui hos­pi­tals and will take ef­fect when flu sea­son is de­clared in the Waikato.

The de­ci­sion will be made by the med­i­cal of­fi­cer of health, but last year’s flu sea­son was de­clared mid-july and lasted un­til late Septem­ber.

The masks, es­ti­mated to cost $3000 to cover the sea­son, will be sup­plied at the en­trances of each hospi­tal and ward and will op­er­ate on an ‘‘hon­our sys­tem’’.

Proof of vac­ci­na­tion is not re­quired, but peo­ple are ex­pected to wear them if they haven’t had their shot.

Mur­ray said the vis­i­tor pol­icy came about af­ter feed­back from staff.

‘‘In­fluenza is a po­ten­tially se­ri­ous vi­ral in­fec­tion that’s much worse than a cold and can be se­vere enough to re­quire hospi­tal treat­ment.

‘‘Around 400 peo­ple die each year in New Zealand from in­fluenza,’’ he said.

‘‘As health­care work­ers it is our re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­tect our­selves and our patients and set an ex­am­ple to oth­ers who may not be in­formed as we are about the risk and im­pact of in­fluenza. We need to pro­tect vul­ner­a­ble patients from catch­ing in­fluenza while in our care.’’

In 2014, 53 per cent of DHB staff opted to have the free flu vac­cine. Last year, the first year of the pol­icy, more than 80 per cent of staff were vac­ci­nated and Mur­ray said this year’s up­take is sim­i­lar.

DHB di­rec­tor nurs­ing and mid­wifery Sue Hay­ward said they also con­sid­ered feed­back from the New Zealand Nurses Or­gan­i­sa­tion (NZNO).


Waikato DHB clin­i­cal nurse man­ager in­fec­tion, pre­ven­tion and con­trol Vicki Parry, said they will sup­ply $3000 worth of masks at the en­trance of each Waikato hospi­tal, in­clud­ing Toko­roa.

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