VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - Nov. 20, 2012) - The Association of Registered Nurses of British Columbia (ARNBC) believes that patients and families in British Columbia will benefit under the Ministry of Health's new Influenza Protection Policy and would support the move toward a universal program that would ensure all British Columbians have access to free flu shots, the Association announced today.
On August 23, 2012, the B.C. Government introduced new measures designed to protect patients and seniors from being exposed to influenza.
"We support the overwhelming evidence that clearly indicates patients are better protected when health workers are immunized against influenza," said Dr. Susan Duncan, RN and ARNBC President. "We encourage all British Columbians to receive an annual flu shot which not only reduces the likelihood of catching the flu, but also serves to protect those around you."
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, between 2,000 to 8,000 Canadians die of flu and its complications each year. Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) encourages all Canadians over age six months to get a flu shot and stresses that it is particularly important for health professionals to be immunized to protect themselves and their patients.
"B.C. RNs feel a strong sense of accountability to their patients and the majority recognizes the policy as an important standard for high quality care," said Duncan. "We appreciate that the policy also provides guidance around prevention measures such as hand washing, increased access to vaccines for healthcare workers and the introduction of flu prevention champions."
B.C. is the first province to require health care workers to either get a yearly flu shot or wear a protective mask for the flu season. However, a growing number of health authorities across Canada and the United States are considering similar policies.
"As the Provincial Health Officer, I know nurses play a key role in responding to the effects of influenza," said Dr. Perry Kendall. "I applaud ARNBC for taking a leading role in promoting progressive public health policy."
"The new policy will ensure health care workers and patients are protected," said Duncan. "However, we also recognize that there are British Columbians who resist getting a flu shot because it isn't currently covered under the BC Medical Services Plan. For this reason, we encourage ongoing discussion about the possibility of offering free flu shots for all British Columbians."