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We Cover The County...
Almost one third of local health care workers did not receive flu shot
by Chris Daponte
About 63 per cent of health care workers in local hospitals and nursing and retirement homes received a flu shot this season - down 3% from a year ago and still well short of the 80% target.
Rita Sethi, director of community health and wellness with Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health (WDGPH), said while a few facilities managed to achieve 100% immunization, overall the results are not up to par.
“Of the six hospitals, only one managed to meet [the 80% goal],” she said. “We’d like to see that rise dramatically ... we would like to see everyone at 80% or higher.”
Like the general public, there are a number of reasons some health care workers do not receive the flu shot, ranging from a self-perceived resiliency to the flu to a belief the shot does not work.
“People need to recognize that by getting the flu shot, they’re not just protecting themselves, but those around them,” said Sethi.
She noted that adding to the apprehension some people have about getting the flu shot were media reports late last year about the efficacy of the shot, as well as an “Agriflu scare” in the fall (Health Canada suspended distribution of two vaccines - Agriflu and Fluad - to examine white floating material in the vaccines, but later announced the shots were fine).
Sethi also cautioned about comparing this season’s results with past years, as the reporting period increased this year, as did requirements (workers on contract, independent physicians and volunteers were not included this year, but have been in the past).
However, due to the less-than-ideal results this year, Sethi said WDGPH officials will continue to encourage health care workers to receive the flu shot and are investigating new ways to educate them and encourage immunization.
Last week’s WDGPH report states the average rates for staff immunization within its catchment area were 79% in long-term care homes, 77% in retirement homes and 52% in hospitals.
Those figures are up 8% and 3% and down 3% respectively, but all were still below the 80% national target set by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.
According to the WDGPH report, that committee, along with the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA), has stated the immunization of health care workers is “a standard of care which is essential for the protection of patients and residents.”
Further, a flu protocol developed in 2010 by the OHA and the Ontario Medical Association states “health care workers and their employers have a duty to actively promote, implement and comply with influenza immunization recommendations.”
Over the past seven flu seasons in the WDGPH area, health care worker immunization rates peaked in 2006-07 at 69%.
The results for the following six seasons are:
- 64% in 2007-08;
- 65% in 2008-09;
- 61% in 2009-10, the year of the H1N1 outbreak;
- 56% in 2010-11;
- 66% in 2011-12; and
- 63% this year.
The board report concludes that “in spite of efforts of health care facilities to improve [health care worker] influenza immunization rates through voluntary campaigns, convenient access to influenza vaccine and staff incentive initiatives, influenza coverage among [health care workers] continues to fall below the national target of 80%.”
The board of health hopes to “reinforce” the importance of the flu shots for health care workers by following the recommendations of Medical Officer of Health Dr. Nicola Mercer, which include:
- sending congratulatory letters to all facilities that achieved an 80% immunization rate;
- formally acknowledging (with a certificate for public display) the Royal Terrace in Palmerston for achieving a 100% immunization rate; and
- publicly disclosing flu shot rates on the WDGPH website.
Long-term care facilities
For nursing homes, several were within the 62 to 76% range, including Caressant Care in Fergus and Morriston Park.
The facilities with a rate exceeding the national target include:
- Avalon Care Centre in Orangeville;
- Caressant Care Arthur;
- Caressant Care Harriston;
- Eden House;
- Elliot Community in Guelph;
- Riverside Glen in Guelph;
- the Royal Terrace (again 100%); and
- the Wellington Terrace in Aboyne.
The overall flu shot rate for health care workers in WDGPH-area nursing homes during the 2011-12 season was 79% (Hamilton House and Hometown Living in Harriston did not report their rates).
Highland Manor in Fergus had the lowest rate of retirement homes in the WDGPH area this season at 44%. The Royal on Gordon in Guelph came in at 54% while a number of others ranged from 62 to 78%.
Thirteen homes had a rate exceeding the national target including Caressant Care facilities in Arthur, Fergus and Harriston; Eden House in Guelph-Eramosa; and the Hillsburgh Rest Home and Royal Terrace in Palmerston, which both received 100%.
Immunization rates for health care workers at area hospitals were far below the national target (52% overall) and also by far the lowest of all types of facilities.
However, the rate for Groves Memorial in Fergus was up substantially, from barely above 50% in 2011-12 to 66% this year.
Homewood Health Centre in Guelph (49%) was about the same as last year, while Headwaters hospital in Orangeville dropped from nearly 55% last year to 40% - the lowest rate of any facility in the area for 2012-13.
Guelph General Hospital’s rate was down slightly to 52%, and North Wellington Health Care hospitals in Mount Forest and Palmerston had rates of 76% and 85% respectively (last year they were classified as one).
For the complete report, visit www.wdgpublichealth.ca.
Vol 46 Issue 11
March 15, 2013
The Wellington Advertiser
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