If Unwilling to Get Flu Shot, Will Need to Wear Mask
Health care workers in British Columbia have been informed that if they are not willing to get jabbed with the flu shot, they will have to conceal their faces.
The province’s Ministry of Health Services announced recently that, beginning at the start of the flu season, any health care workers who come into contact with patients at publicly-funded health care facilities will be required to wear a surgical or procedural mask if they refuse, for whatever reason, to get the influenza vaccine. Nurses not wearing the mask could be looking at discipline up to termination, the policy states.
Participation Rate of Similar Programs > 95%
Similar programs in the U.S. have seen immunization levels of health care workers higher than 95 percent, according to reports.
“We know that healthcare workers get influenza and they continue to work if they have mild symptoms and they can spread the virus and be infectious even before they get symptoms,” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall said, noting that approximately 10 to 20 percent of nurses get influenza in a flu season, similar to the general population.
Nurses Can Quickly Spread Virus Without Showing Symptoms
The problem with nurses not getting flu shots, Kendall remarked, is that studies have shown that nurses carrying the influenza virus often do not show any symptoms and would still come to work — and those that do get sick are still able to spread the virus for 24 hours before showing symptoms.
According to the new policy, which will likely come into effect in December, workers will get a sticker that will be affixed to their ID badges to show whether they have been immunized or not. In addition to being available from anywhere flu shots are available to the public, many health authorities are offering peer nurse immunizations.
The ministry decided against a mandatory immunization policy and offered the option of masks in an effort to avoid any court or labor challenges that might arise, Kendall noted.
Mandatory Immunization Avoided
“Mandatory immunization is a hot-button issue and quite frankly we’d rather spend our energy on trying to educate and inform and produce a safer environment on patients than spending it in front of labor relations tribunals or dealing with the issues of mandatory programs,” Kendall stated.
Meantime, the British Columbia Nurses’ Union continues discussions with the ministry about the policy and is not talking about challenging it, according to a spokesperson.
The spokesperson noted that the ID badge stickers are a point of contention and are reportedly an invasion of the healthcare worker’s personal health information.
Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: email@example.com.
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