British Columbia requires either masks or flu shots of hospital visitors

By Niklas Moeller/ Special to Healthcare Facilities Today
March 7, 2014
Kevin Frayer/The Canadian Press

Under a directive imposed at the start of this influenza season, visitors to all the British Columbia province’s hospitals and long-term care facilities must don a mask if they have not been immunized. At least three hospitals in Ontario have implemented similar policies, accordion to an article on the National Post website.

At the entrances to those facilities, piles of masks have been added to the antiseptic soap dispensers and hand-washing reminders that became ubiquitous in the wake of the 2003 SARS outbreak, the article said.

The policies stem from more contentious and widespread attempts to impose the same choice on staff of health-care institutions, and escalate the often-challenging campaign for broader flu immunization. In some of the places it has been implemented, the rate of staff members getting flu shots has soared, the article said.

In Ontario, St. Joseph’s Health Care Centre in London requires visitors anywhere in the institution to wear masks if they have not had a flu shot, while the London Health Sciences Centre makes it mandatory in patient-care areas of the facility. The North Bay Regional Health Centre is requiring unvaccinated visitors to wear a mask in patient areas when there is a high level of influenza in the community.

Several more hospitals in Ontario and New Brunswick have imposed mask-or-vaccinate on health-care staff, the article said.

“A certain number of people have very strong views about not getting influenza vaccine,” Dr. Michael John, medical director of infection control at both London hospitals, said in the article. “What we felt with the mask policy is that it gave people an alternative.”

London Health Sciences has seen staff flu immunization rates jump to 75% from about 50%, and more than 85% among doctors, said John.

In B.C. similarly, the proportion of workers to get vaccinated under the new policies has risen to about 70%, according to the article.

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