’Flu shot compliance varies in region

A report to the Northwestern Health Unit on compliance rates for ’flu shots among staff and residents at area rest homes and hospitals showed a wide gap of participation across the Kenora-Rainy River districts.
For instance, as of Dec. 23, 86.4 percent of staff and 97.8 percent of residents at Rainycrest Home for the Aged here have had influenza immunizations, but only 73 percent of staff and 91 percent of residents at Pinecrest Home for the Aged in Kenora got theirs.
And Dr. Pete Sarsfield, CEO and medical officer of health for the health unit, isn’t happy about it.
“My opinion on this, as is the opinion of the National Advisory Commission on Immunization, the Ontario Hospital Association, and the Ontario Medical Association, is this should not be optional,” he remarked.
“There should not be this wide range between facilities,” he stressed. “Not having people immunized puts the public at risk, and it puts staff at risk, who in turn, put patients or residents at risk.
“We have something called ‘Duty of Care’—an oath to do no harm to those in our care,” Dr. Sarsfield added.
He said it’s striking how the majority of residents want to be immunized. If only the staff thought the same way.
“There is a solution. Immunization is a safe and relatively effective means of protecting those we are serving,” he said.
“But being in the health care profession and not get a shot is not acceptable and should be legally imposed,” he argued. “I think in the next two-three years, it will be.”
As of Dec. 23, the compliance rates for long-term care facilities in the Kenora-Rainy River districts are as follows:
•Rainycrest—86.4 percent for staff/97.8 percent for residents;
•Golden Age Manor (Emo)—83/100;
•Rainy River Health Care Facility (long-term care ward)—96/95;
•Princess Court (Dryden)—87/91;
•Birchwood Terrace (Kenora)—80/97;
•Pinecrest Home for the Aged—73/91;
•Atikokan General Hospital (long-term care ward)—73/91;
•Northwood Lodge (Red Lake)—92/95; and
•William A. George extended care unit (Sioux Lookout)—96/95.
Acute care facilities fared much the same, with compliance rates ranging from 90 percent for staff at Dryden Regional Health Centre to 73 percent at Atikokan General Hospital.
Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc. (which submitted an average for all three of its health care facilities in Fort Frances, Emo and Rainy River), saw a 79 percent compliance rate back on Dec. 23.
But it now sports an average of 87 percent between the three, Riverside CEO Wayne Woods said yesterday afternoon.
“It’s definitely a good thing to see that [rate of compliance],” he remarked. “Obviously, we want our staff immunized to protect not only themselves and their families, but more importantly, our patients.”
Meanwhile, Margaret Cochenour Memorial Hospital in Red Lake saw 78 percent of staff get their ’flu shot. That number was 76 percent at Lake of the Woods District Hospital in Kenora and 73 percent at the Meno-Ya-Win Health Centre in Sioux Lookout.
Dr. Sarsfield noted these numbers were self-reported, and any inaccuracies were on the respective institutions’ parts, not the health unit’s.
In related news, the health unit has wrapped up its push for the public to get ’flu shots, with the last of its clinics held here last Thursday.
Dr. Sarsfield enthusiastically noted the demand for ’flu shots this year sky-rocketed—seeing an increase of 5,000 more immunizations administered this ’flu season than last.
“This is a preventable illness we’re looking to prevent, and the public at large seems to see that,” he remarked.
“I don’t want people to walk around in fear all the time, worried about getting a shot for everything out there,” added Dr. Sarsfield. “But when we can do things to prevent illness in ourselves, and others, we should do it.”
The health unit initially was going to wrap up its ’flu shot clinics Dec. 4. But the high demand for vaccinations prompted it to extend that date to Dec. 9.
That was extended yet again, with more clinics being held at the health unit’s office on Scott Street here up until Dec. 23.
According to statistics from earlier this month, the health unit had distributed a total of 34,374 doses of the vaccine across the Kenora-Rainy River districts, and itself had administered a total of 12,844 shots (4,582 of these were given in Fort Frances, Emo, Rainy River, and Atikokan).
While the Jan. 15 clinic was referred to as called a “last call” one, the health unit will continue to accept appointments for ’flu shots every Wednesday during the winter.
Meanwhile, health unit staff now are keeping busy with booster shots in schools and immunization education in outlying communities.
(Fort Frances Times)