(Saskatoon) – Saskatchewan's Chief Medical Health Officer has declared December 1 as the official start of the 2014-2015 influenza (flu) season. With the start of the season, the Influenza Immunize or Mask policy also comes into effect.
The policy is a provincial initiative requiring Saskatchewan's healthcare workers to choose to either get an influenza immunization or to wear a mask in patient and client care areas during influenza season. Healthcare workers who have chosen not to be vaccinated must wear a mask in patient care areas throughout the duration of the season, which is expected to continue to April 3, 2015.
"Patient safety is our highest priority, and the Influenza Immunize or Mask policy is one step we can take to better protect the health of patients in our care and staff in our facilities," says Petrina McGrath, Vice President People, Practice and Quality. "We respect the choice that each individual has made regardless of whether it's choosing to be immunized or choosing to wear a mask while he/she is in a patient or client care area."
There are many reasons someone may be unable to choose to receive the influenza vaccine, ranging from an anaphylactic reaction to the vaccine to religious or personal beliefs. While the vaccine offers the best protection against influenza, masks can also help to prevent transmission of the virus from an infected person who may have minimal or no influenza-like symptoms. Masks may also protect unvaccinated people from infected patients or visitors from influenza.
"We hope that all staff sees the importance of either being immunized or wearing a mask to protect themselves and patients," says Cory Neudorf, Chief Medical Health Officer. "If a staff member ignores this patient safety requirement, the Region will work with managers to handle this similar to how it handles other employee compliance issues."
Saskatoon Health Region began offering drop-in immunization clinics to staff and the public on October 14, 2014. The Region has met its target of immunizing over 80 per cent of employees, having immunized 84 per cent of staff (public immunization rates are currently at 20 per cent). When entering Region facilities, the public is encouraged to take the time to protect themselves and others from influenza by sanitizing their hands and donning a mask if they have not been vaccinated.
Those individuals who have not been vaccinated but want to be immunized can visit the last drop-in clinic of the season on December 13, 2014 at West Winds Primary Health Centre, or call 306-655-4358 to make an appointment. Please be advised that appointment availability may be limited depending on the volume of calls received. Visit www.4flu.ca for details.