Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, has issued the following statement on changes to the provincial influenza prevention policy:
“We are very pleased to have reached an agreement with the BC Nurses’ Union, while undertaking discussions with other key unions and associations, about the need to work collaboratively to continue to take active measures to prevent transmission of influenza in all health-care settings in B.C. This includes continuing the promotion of influenza immunization as the most effective measure to prevent influenza and the appropriate use of masks for those who are not or cannot be immunized.
“The agreement includes suspending some of the disciplinary aspects of the provincial influenza prevention policy that requires health-care employees, contractors and medical staff to be immunized or wear a mask when in patient-care areas during the flu season.
“This change is supported by public health officials, health authorities, the Health Employers Association of BC, and the province’s unions and associations, who all favour a more collaborative approach and the professional judgment of our health-care staff and physicians.
“The purpose of the influenza prevention policy remains the same: to reduce death and illness from influenza by preventing the spread of influenza through immunization and appropriate use of masks by health-care workers, patients and visitors in all health-care settings.
“The only change to the policy is that employers will not discipline employees for not wearing masks. There is still an expectation that health-care providers will be immunized or use masks appropriately, but we will rely on the professionalism of all health-care workers to take appropriate measures to protect themselves and the patients we care for from influenza.
“Reporting of vaccination status remains mandatory. Non-compliance in reporting can lead to discipline.
“If this collaborative approach does not sufficiently achieve the objectives of the policy, which are aimed at protecting patients and health-care workers, the disciplinary policy may be reintroduced.
“The message to all staff and visitors to health-care facilities remains the same: get vaccinated, wear a mask and use other personal protective equipment as appropriate during flu season. It is also key to clean your hands regularly and to stay home when you are sick.”