Flu shot policy for health workers reviewed

Health PEI is looking for ways to convince more health care workers to get the flu shot.

Getting a flu shot is encouraged, but not mandatory, for P.E.I. health care workers. Brenda Worth, chair of the provincial infection control and prevention advisory committee, said Health PEI would like to see more employees get the flu shot.

"Our two largest hospitals are over 75 per cent [of workers immunized], which is actually very good when you look across the country at what's happening," said Worth.

"Some of our other facilities though are quite low. Overall the goal would be about 90 per cent."

Worth said higher immunization rates would give patients and staff more protection from the virus.

A working group is reviewing Health PEI's policy, looking at what's happening in other places.

Two years ago Horizon Health in New Brunswick gave its workers a choice: get the flu shot or wear a medical mask when within two metres of patients during flu season. The percentage of staff that got immunized jumped from 53 to 70 per cent.

Marilyn Babineau, manager of workforce wellness at Horizon Health, said in the past nursing units would be closed to visitors when hit with the flu.

"Since we've put in place this policy, and I'm doing that knocking on wood at my desk, we haven't had that problem in the last two years," said Babineau.

Absenteeism is also down, she said, but noted she can't directly link either the lack of unit closures or drop in absenteeism to the new policy.

Before any changes are made at Health PEI, said Worth, unions will have their say. She's hoping any change will be in place for this year's flu season.

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