December 1, 2014
Public expected to Immunize or Mask in healthcare facilities effective December 1, 2014
Starting December 1, 2014 if you haven't already been immunized this fall against influenza (the flu), you will be expected to wear a mask when you enter Prairie North Health Region (PNHR) facilities and sites where patient care and service is provided.
If you are not immunized against the flu, you will have to keep wearing a mask in patient care and service locations until April 3, 2015 – the approximate end of the annual influenza season.
The expectation to ‘Immunize or Mask' applies to all members of the public who come into hospitals, long-term care facilities, primary health care sites, public health locations and other sites where patients, residents or clients typically access health region care or services. It includes common areas in these facilities such as hallways, lobbies, and waiting rooms, as well as patient rooms, wards, units, departments and other areas where patients, residents or clients typically access care or services.
All PNHR employees and other health professionals including physicians are required to have been immunized or wear a mask while in the Region's patient care locations. Volunteers, students, vendors and contractors must also wear a mask in Prairie North patient care locations if the volunteer, student, vendor or contractor has not been immunized.
In the community, healthcare workers are required to be immunized or wear a mask when delivering care or service to patients or clients at home, or in public locations such as Wellness Clinics.
The requirement to be immunized or wear a mask is part of a new province-wide Influenza Immunize or Mask Policy in effect in all Saskatchewan health regions and the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency.
The purpose is to protect the health and safety of patients. It also serves to protect healthcare workers, their colleagues, families, friends, and communities.
Dr. Brenda Cholin, PNHR Medical Health Officer, explains that immunization each year against influenza “is the best way to protect patients from the serious illness that can result from the common, infectious respiratory disease.”
She encourages everyone to be immunized annually against the flu. “It's the best way to protect yourself, your family, friends, and communities from influenza. It's not too late for anyone to be immunized against the flu.”
Public flu clinics continue in PNHR through December. Clinic schedules are available at www.pnrha.ca/flu . From January 2015 to the end of March 2015, flu shots are available at your nearest Public Health Office. Flu shots are also available through some physician or nurse practitioner offices.
Cholin reminds everyone to always practice proper hand hygiene and cough etiquette, and not to visit patients and health care facilities when you are ill or just recovering.
As of December 5, 80% of Prairie North employees have been vaccinated against the flu. That's well ahead of last year's pace. By the end of last year's flu season around mid-March, PNHR's employee vaccination rate stood just shy of 65%.
Region-wide among the public, demand for the flu immunization has also been strong.
In Prairie North facilities, surgical/procedure masks will be available for individuals who have chosen not to be immunized against influenza. Gel hand sanitizer is located throughout PNHR sites.
Instructions on how to properly put on and take off the masks will be posted to assist people unfamiliar with the appropriate procedure. Posters will be in place explaining why people unaware of the Immunize or Mask Policy may see health care workers and others wearing masks.
Immunization against the influenza virus is a safe and effective way to prevent getting sick with and spreading the virus. Annual vaccination is recommended because the influenza viruses are always changing. Talk to your doctor, nurse, pharmacist or public health nurse if you have questions or concerns about getting the flu shot or flu nasal spray.