No flu shot for half of BGH staffers

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Less than half of staff members at the Brockville General Hospital are getting the flu shot, according to the CEO, who is urging staff to line up for the annual inoculation.

Heather Quesnelle, who was appointed chief executive officer on an interim basis in October, said a reported inoculation rate of 49.3 per cent at BGH may be marginally higher because some staff did not report a vaccination, but she concedes more workers in a health-care setting should be receiving the annual flu shot.

Quesnelle said she supports the position recently expressed by the Canadian Nurses Association that all registered nurses should receive the vaccine every year.

“I strongly encourage staff to get the flu shot,” she said, noting it is not mandatory at any of the area's hospitals and many long-term care homes.

It's really important people have flu shots to protect patients if their health is compromised in any way,” she said.

With a virulent strain of flu rampant in the community and at the hospital over the holidays, many staff fell ill with the flu themselves and called in sick, she noted.

While the number of staff members receiving a flu shot has been rising gradually in recent years, it should still be higher, Quesnelle said.

“It really is an important step for health care.”

Vaccination is mandatory for students, faculty and temporary employees at BGH, but not for full-time staff.

Elsewhere in the region, staff at Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital reported a 59 per cent compliance rate for getting the flu shot while the Ottawa Hospital showed a 58.6 compliance rate.

A voluntary vaccination policy is also in place at the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit but staff members there are strongly encouraged to get a flu shot, said medical officer of health Dr. Paula Stewart. She noted 95 per cent of health unit staff have had the flu shot.

“You can do things to push it right to the edge of mandatory,” said Stewart, who says a flu shot protects the person who receives it as well as others they come in
contact with.

“I strongly support the immunization of health-care workers who have direct contact with susceptible people,” she said.

The incidence of flu across North America has been particularly severe this year but Stewart said there is good news in the offing.

“I think it's slowing down,” she said. “There are still reports of people testing positive for the flu so it's still out there. But it's appearing with less intensity.”

Just two weeks ago, 38 per cent of visits to area emergency rooms were either flu-related or tied to a respiratory infection not necessarily caused by influenza. Since then, the incidence has fallen to 20 per cent of ER visits, she said.

“I think we hit the peak and we're now ready to come back down again."



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