Saskatchewan health care workers will be required to choose either to get an influenza immunization or to wear a mask while delivering care and services to patients during flu season this fall.
Following the strong recommendation of Saskatchewan's Medical Health Officers and other health system leaders, health regions are moving forward with an "immunize-or-mask" policy for staff during the 2014-15 flu season. Health care staff who are not immunized for influenza this fall will be required to wear a mask in patient or client care areas during flu season.
"Health regions are committed to protecting the health of our patients and making health care environments as safe as possible for patients and staff alike," said Prairie North Health Region CEO David Fan said. "This policy is another way to prevent the spread of influenza among patients and staff in our facilities."
Currently, only about 50 per cent of health care staff and physicians in Saskatchewan voluntarily get an annual flu shot.
"This is the right thing to do. Patient safety is our top priority and we need to do all we can to take steps that minimize the risk of illness in our health facilities," said Health Minister Dustin Duncan.
Saskatchewan will be the second province in Canada, after British Columbia, to introduce an immunize-or-mask policy. The policy is being finalized as discussions continue with health care provider organizations and unions.
"Influenza can have devastating consequences for patients and residents in long term care," said Dr. David Torr, chair of the Medical Health Officers' Council of Saskatchewan. "This policy is another step to reduce exposures to influenza, and keep our patients, residents and staff from the serious impacts of influenza while in our health care facilities."