Flu shots or a mask? It’s hospital visitors’ choice

Island Health flu policy kicks in at local hospitals

As of this week, hospital visitors who haven’t received a seasonal flu shot will need to wear a mask.

Just in time for flu season, Island Health is reminding the public about changes made last year affecting visitors to B.C. health-care facilities, including long-term care and other retirement homes.

“Last year it became a provincial policy for visitors (who haven’t received a flu shot) to wear a mask, and that is because we often have these kinds of illnesses brought into the facility from the community,” said Island Health spokesperson Sarah Plank. “Because the people are vulnerable, we want to offer them as much protection as possible.”

The flu season generally starts in December and ends in April. However, Plank said there has already been a confirmed influenza outbreak at Aberdeen Hospital, a residential care facility on Hillside Avenue, accentuating the need for care at all times. Masks will be made available for free for anyone not yet vaccinated.

Approximately 3,500 Canadians die from influenza or its complications every year. Last year, Island Health distributed 243,000 flu vaccines to pharmacies, doctors offices and public health units across the region. This year that number is up to 268,700.

“We trust that people want to do the right thing. No one wants to cause someone who is vulnerable to get sick,” Plank said. “So, it’s on the honour system and we expect as (the public) becomes aware of the policy, they’ll do the right thing.”

alim@goldstreamgazette.com