Sask healthcare workers will follow an "immunize or mask" policy

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Saskatchewan will be the second province to introduce an immunize-or-mask policy as part of a proactive approach to the flu season.

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 proceeding 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,” Prairie North Health Region CEO David Fan said on behalf of all CEOs. “This policy is another way to prevent the spread of influenza among patients and staff in our facilities.”

“This is the right thing to do,” Health Minister Dustin Duncan said. “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.”

Currently, only about 50 per cent of health care staff and physicians in Saskatchewan voluntarily get an annual flu shot.

“Keeping our patients safe and ensuring they have access to the care they need is a central concern of physicians,” President of the Saskatchewan Medical Association Dr. Dalibor Slavik said. “Evidence shows flu vaccines or using masks work.  It is important for physicians and health care workers to do all they can to prevent the spread of flu viruses this year.”

“Influenza can have devastating consequences for patients and residents in long term care," chair of the Medical Health Officers’ Council of Saskatchewan Dr. David Torr said. "This policy is another step to reduce exposures to influenza, and keep our patients, residents and staff from the serious impacts of influenza whilst in our health care facilities."

“We support this immunization initiative and encourage all RNs and RN(NP)s to protect your patients, your family, your co-workers and yourselves by getting your seasonal flu shot or by wearing a mask,” RN, PhD, Executive Director, Saskatchewan Registered Nurses’ Association Karen Eisler said.

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.

Organizations: Saskatchewan Medical Association, Medical Health Officers’ Council of Saskatchewan

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Canada, British Columbia

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