Health care workers to mask or vaccinate in flu season

Jodi
Jodi Schellenberg
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Saskatchewan health-care workers are being told to take one more step to stop the spread of illness.

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The Ministry of Health announced health-care workers will be asked to either get the influenza vaccination or to wear a mask during flu season this fall.

“Basically, we as health-care workers and health-care providers strive to make sure we give the best care and strive to minimize diseases and illness that are in the environment and protect not only our patients but our residents and facilities and our staff,” said Dr. David Torr, chairperson for Medical Health Officers Council of Saskatchewan.

“On top of that, it is pretty common knowledge now that influenza is probably the leading cause of death in Canada from infectious disease,” he added. “We have done so well in so many other infectious diseases but we still strive and struggle with influenza.”

When mask were introduced in British Columbia during flu season, many health-care workers were upset with the mandate and unions challenged it.

Torr said the ministry has been including the unions at the table to discuss these issues.

“We want to work co-operatively towards the most important thing, which is our patient’s safety,” he said.

Saskatchewan has been working on putting in the immunize or mask policy into place for a couple of years.

“British Columbia was the first to put this in place in Canada but in the U.S., many States have been at this for many years and we have been studying a lot about the pros and cons of this kind of measure and we have been advocating for the vaccine for over 30 years,” Torr said. “What we are advocating now is immunize or mask -- whichever way what is important is to reduce the amount of illness and transmission.”

Since B.C. was the first province in Canada to vaccinate, Torr said they have been consulting with the other province.

“Certainly we have had a lot of discussion with them and looking at how they have gone about it and using that to make sure as we approach this that we approach it in the best possible way,” Torr said.

Although they are giving the option to either mask or immunize, Torr said immunization is still better protection.

“Masking has a lot of challenges to it, in that you have to put the mask on first of all, you have to put it on properly and it has to stay on while you work,” Torr said. “If those measures are taken, certainly you will reduce the amount of spread.”

He said no masks will completely protect against the virus.

“They are certainly a measure towards improving,” Torr said. “The preference would be to immunize, it is much easier when you have the immunization you don’t have to worry about (if) your mask on properly and things like that. In the event that you can’t immunize, of course the mask becomes the alternative.

Even with people who immunize, many will take on responsibility to mask on top of the immunization.”

All health-care workers will have to mask or vaccinate -- from the front administration and security guards to doctors and nurses.

“The key is that people who are in facility are in contact with patients,” Torr said. “So if you are security, patients are coming in, you may be the first point of contact. Either you could spread or get spread to the illness.”

Since they are still developing the policy, it will not come out until the fall, going into the influenza season.

Organizations: Ministry of Health, Medical Health Officers Council of Saskatchewan

Geographic location: Canada, British Columbia, Saskatchewan U.S.

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Recent comments

  • Dale Wilson
    July 10, 2014 - 11:21

    Vaccination must be mandatory for those coming into contact with the public in a health care setting - as indeed it must be for children entering the school system. Vaccination is one of the most succesful health care interventions in history.

  • Northernscout
    July 09, 2014 - 23:51

    I have had very nasty surgery in the past and my life was at pretty low ebb for a while. I would not have wanted to risk exposure to someone who may have been a flu carrier who was not protecting me with a mask. I have friends in chemo therapy for cancer. Their immune system is totally down and off the map. For them to get the flu is a death sentence. What does it take for medical practitioners to get the message.

  • Northernscout
    July 09, 2014 - 23:48

    I have had very nasty surgery in the past and my life was at pretty low ebb for a while. I would not have wanted to risk exposure to someone who may have been a flu carrier who was not protecting me with a mask. I have friends in chemo therapy for cancer. Their immune system is totally down and off the map. For them to get the flu is a death sentence. What does it take for medical practitioners to get the message.

  • Northernscout
    July 09, 2014 - 23:47

    I have had very nasty surgery in the past and my wife was at pretty low ebb for a while. I would not have wanted to risk exposure to someone who may have been a flu carrier who was not protecting me with a mask. I have friends in chemo therapy for cancer. Their immune system is totally down and off the map. For them to get the flu is a death sentence. What does it take for medical practitioners to get the message.

  • Northernscout
    July 09, 2014 - 23:46

    I have had very nasty surgery in the past and my wife was at pretty low ebb for a while. I would not have wanted to risk exposure to someone who may have been a flu carrier who was not protecting me with a mask. I have friends in chemo therapy for cancer. Their immune system is totally down and off the map. For them to get the flu is a death sentence. What does it take for medical practitioners to get the message.

  • D Hilton
    July 09, 2014 - 23:44

    I have had very nasty surgery in the past and my wife was at pretty low ebb for a while. I would not have wanted to risk exposure to someone who may have been a flu carrier who was not protecting me with a mask. I have friends in chemo therapy for cancer. Their immune system is totally down and off the map. For them to get the flu is a death sentence. What does it take for medical practitioners to get the message.