“Immunize or Mask” in health care facilities

Starting Dec. 1, if you haven’t had your flu shot, you will have to wear a mask when you enter any Heartland Health Region facilities or sites where patient care and service is provided, r any other health care facilities in the Province of Saskatchewan.

If you are not immunized against the flu, you will have to keep wearing a mask while 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 HHR employees and other health professionals, including physicians, are required to have their seasonal influenza immunization or wear a mask while in the health region’s patient care locations. Volunteers, students, vendors and contractors must also wear a mask in Heartland Health Region’s patient care locations if they have not received their seasonal influenza immunization. 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 further protect the health and safety of patients. It also serves to further protect healthcare workers, their colleagues, families, friends, and communities.

Dr. David Torr, consulting medical health officer for the region says “The number one prevention against influenza is to get your influenza vaccination every year. It is the best protection for you, your family, friends and communities from influenza.” Although the immunization cannot guarantee that you will not get the flu this season, it greatly reduces the chance you will get it and, if you do get the flu, the vaccine will likely reduce the length of time that you will suffer from the symptoms, as well as the strength of the illness. With vaccine, you will also spread less of the virus for less time to those around you, if you get it. It is also very important for everyone to always practise proper hand hygiene and cough etiquette, and not to visit patients and health care facilities when you are ill or just recovering.

It is not too late to get your flu shot. In Macklin, a clinic will be held at St. Joseph’s Health Centre Dec. 16 from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. Unity’s December clinic will be Dec. 18, at the health centre, from a to 7 p.m. From January 2015 to the end of March 2015, flu shots are available at your nearest public health office.

In Heartland Health Region facilities, surgical/procedure masks will be available for individuals who have chosen not to be immunized against influenza. Gel hand sanitizer, an additional tool to further minimize the spread of infections, is located throughout HHR sites. Instructions on how to properly put on and take off the masks will be posted.

 

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