Flu shot-or-mask rule upheld by arbitrator

Health care workers and visitors in patient care areas will be required to have the current influenza vaccination or wear a mask

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall

Health care workers and visitors in patient care areas will be required to have the current influenza vaccination or wear a mask when the annual influenza season returns in December.

Health care union objections to the policy were rejected by a labour arbitrator’s ruling this week, a decision Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall called “good news for patients.”

The policy can now be enforced for staff across all of B.C.’s health authorities, particularly in long-term care facilities, Kendall said Thursday. Visitors will be on an “honour system” to keep their flu shots up to date or use a mask when they visit friends and relatives, he said.

The current influenza vaccine is available from doctors and pharmacies around the province, and is free to those with chronic conditions or who come in contact with people who are at higher risk of serious complications from influenza. To find out if you are eligible for a free vaccine, see this website, ask your doctor or pharmacist, or call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1.

U.S. health care facilities have similar rules and voluntary compliance of staff members is very high, said Kendall, who has been pushing for the restriction for some time. Health employers now have the option of progressive discipline to make sure employees protect against passing on  influenza virus to vulnerable patients.

“We obviously hope it won’t come to that, because we believe that health care workers do care for their patients,” Kendall said.

The Health Sciences Association, a union representing lab techs and other specialists in the health care system, had argued that its members were entitled to make their own decision on whether to get the annual vaccine. It is formulated each year by international health authorities, based on the dominant strains of influenza that are found around the world.

Kendall said the arbitrator accepted research findings from the University of Minnesota that found the vaccine to be 90 per cent effective in years when it is a “good match” with the virus strain that emerges during winter.

The study found that a less accurate match causes the effectiveness to drop as low as 40 per cent, but Kendall noted that is better than zero protection, which is what skipping the flu shot provides.

Arbitrator Robert Diebolt wrote that given the seriousness of influenza, a severe respiratory condition that causes death in frail elderly people each winter, increasing immunization protection is a reasonable policy for health care facilities.

Just Posted

#GetHired at the Black Press Extreme Education and Career Fair today

‘We contact companies that we know are either looking to hire’

Earth Day planting supports wetland habitats

Earthwise invites locals to join project restoring delicate area

Letter: One Dump Truck Too Many!

There is something going on in our town (oh! I mean, just… Continue reading

Fraser Health patients to see 23% more knee, hip replacement surgeries

First-available surgeon approach will reduce waitlists, B.C. health minister says

Proper engagement needed for quarry development: expert

Impact on residents, species should be communicated, evaluated

VIDEO: Harrison gets uncorked at wine festival

Locally prepared food was paired with a wide variety of wines at the Saturday fundraiser

WATCH: Oldest longhouse in the Fraser Valley to be rebuilt in Chilliwack

Longhouse fundraising gala at Tzeachten Hall, May 5 puts spotlight on Indigenous art

COLUMN: Stanley Cup playoff second-round predictions

Sidney Crosby and the Penguins continue their quest for their third straight Stanley Cup

B.C. seeks court ruling on new pipeline regulations

Province wants to require permits for any new bitumen transport

LIVE: TSB findings on plane crash that killed former Alberta Premier Jim Prentice

The TSB will announce its findings and the Capital News will follow.

Former child watchdog to head UBC centre on residential schools

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond to lead university’s Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre

Man dead after possible attack near Vancouver casino

A 38-year-old man with ‘serious injures’ was rushed to hospital but died in surgery

5 to start your day

3-alarm fire guts East Vancouver print shop, prison escapee back in custody and more

Toronto sports fans come together in wake of van attack

Police probe Toronto van attack as details emerge

Most Read