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Hospital staff must immunize or wear a mask this winter

Tuesday, January 07, 2014   by: Staff



SAH Implements “Immunize or Mask” Policy

SAULT STE. MARIE, ON - (January 7) - In an effort to be as proactive as possible in protecting the well-being of our patients, Sault Area Hospital (SAH) has implemented a policy requiring all SAH personnel to either receive an influenza vaccination or wear a mask during the flu season.

The policy will remain in place until March 31, 2014, or possibly later if influenza activity in the hospital or community warrants it. SAH will work closely with Algoma Public Health to monitor conditions.

“It is fundamentally our duty as health care providers and as a public hospital to put our patients’ safety first in our decision making,” states Dr. Heather O’Brien, SAH Chief of Staff and Medical Affairs. “There is no question that being vaccinated is the single most effective means of protecting yourself and others from influenza. There is also no dispute that those patients in our care are the most frail and vulnerable to the possibly serious, and even fatal, effects of the flu.”

Algoma Public Health supports SAH’s efforts to increase immunization rates in the hospital and in the community as a whole.

“The flu can be a very serious illness," adds Dr. Kim Barker, Medical Officer of Health at Algoma Public Health. “When you get a flu shot, you reduce the risk of passing on the virus to other people - especially those at high risk of complications. Although the flu shot is not 100% effective on its own, in a community perspective, it works quite well to protect those at greatest risk."

Immunization is a critical component of an overall infection prevention and control program at SAH, including proper hand hygiene, appropriate use of personal protective equipment, effective screening and isolation practices, surge protocols and other means which are already in place.

The policy covers all persons carrying on activities at SAH, including employees, students, undergraduate and post-graduate medical trainees, physicians, volunteers and contract workers.

The policy is in effect in all inpatient and outpatient clinical or patient care areas, including outpatient clinics, rehab and reception/waiting areas, and also pertains to all personnel engaged in direct patient interaction, irrespective of the location of that interaction.

While members of the public are not specifically covered by the policy, SAH also strongly encourages all visitors to wear a mask if they have not been immunized.

Mask dispensers have been strategically located throughout the hospital.

The importance of hand washing - especially when entering and existing patient rooms - must also be emphasized.

Prior to implementation of the policy, internal consultations were held which reinforced a universally-held belief of the importance of vaccination and an understanding of the particular vulnerability of hospital patients. As a result of those consultations, a goal of 70 percent immunization by December 31, 2013 was set which, if met, would preclude the implementation of the “immunize or mask” policy.

While significantly higher than the 2012 rate of just over 50 percent, the immunization rate of 60 percent at the end of December fell short of the target.

“SAH made every effort possible to achieve our target of 70 percent but still fell short. If we must enact policy to ensure that we are doing everything in our power to protect and care for our patients, then that is something we will do,” explains Ron Gagnon, SAH President & CEO. “While the flu shot is not a ‘magic bullet,’ it is the single most important weapon in our infection prevention and control arsenal. To not use to its fullest means we aren’t doing everything we can to maximize safety and quality care. Every single patient in our hospital deserves to know that the person caring for them has taken steps to reduce influenza transmission.”

While more aggressive and proactive influenza policies are the source of some disagreement amongst some groups, organizations such as the Association of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Canada, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, as well as the Influenza Surveillance Protocol for Ontario Hospitals all strongly support immunization among health care workers.

Furthermore, the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) position statement on influenza immunization of Registered Nurses “supports annual influenza immunization as the most effective method of preventing influenza and its complications…It is CNA’s position that all registered nurses (RNs) should receive the influenza vaccine annually to protect themselves, their families and those in their care, with the exception of RNs for whom the influenza immunization is contraindicated. CNA recommends that annual influenza immunization of RNs be part of a comprehensive workplace and patient safety strategy.”

“One of the arguments used by some is that the flu vaccine is only 40 to 60 percent effective,” adds Dr. O’Brien. “Indications are that this year’s vaccine is a much better match to the circulating influenza strains, including the H1N1 strain that is quite prevalent, but it’s really a moot point. If it was your father, mother or child in a patient bed, would you prefer a 40 to 60 percent chance of your loved one being protected or none at all?”

To find out more about SAH, visit


Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
grunt 1/7/2014 3:42:15 PM Report

Visitors do not have to wear a mask, this is a joke! they are trying to force staff to get the flu vaccine. Got it last year, got sick anyway. They don't even know what strain of flu will be coming out this year, so what is in this flu shot??
Right of Centre 1/7/2014 3:51:46 PM Report

grunt, perhaps you should read some news besides that at SooToday. This year's predominant strain is H1N1 (it's part of this year's shot), which was pandemic in 2009. Alberta has hundreds hospitalized with several deaths. Ontario has had deaths. As with most newer strains, it is the more healthy segment of the population at greater risk of death, 18-24.
K-Nish 1/7/2014 3:52:49 PM Report

trivalent - two influenza A viruses and an influenza B virus (the shot)

�an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus;
�an A(H3N2) virus antigenically like the cell-propagated prototype virus A/Victoria/361/2011;
�a B/Massachusetts/2/2012-like virus.

quadrivalent (AKA the Nasal Spray)

Contains the Above but also has the above A virii and including and extra B Virii

B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus

The ones that should scare you are H7N9 or MERS-CoV, No specific vaccines avail.
But these aren't in North America...

old-cat33 1/7/2014 3:53:30 PM Report

grunt: Get the shot! It will still help if you do get sick.
grunt 1/7/2014 3:57:13 PM Report

since visiting hours are from early morn til 10 at nite, how many visitors are coming in without a flu shot, and they don't have to wear a mask? How do they think they can control this?? discrimination
Eset 1/7/2014 4:22:13 PM Report

yes visitors are not required to wear masks however visitors are not going patient to patient helping them. Nor are visitors regularly helping people with compromised immune systems. If they are visiting someone with a compromised immune system they should wear a mask if not vaccinated.
grunt 1/7/2014 4:27:02 PM Report

Have you not been to hospital lately, visitors interact more with patients, kissing hugging, and nowadays some patient care, since nurses are understaffed!
Pakadeva 1/7/2014 4:40:11 PM Report

Visitors aren't hugging & kissing all patients, only the ONE they are visiting, medical staff go from patient to patient to patient. I think the flu shot is warrented!
highway1 1/7/2014 5:04:12 PM Report

Get the shot - not the flu.
Vicci 1/7/2014 5:07:38 PM Report

People that have been vaccinated still get the flu, they can still spread the flu virus. If they want to be truly pro active everyone wears a mask. This news release is just lipstick.
Shortz 1/7/2014 5:16:37 PM Report

Just like the hpv vaccinations are highly recommended. Nothing but a money grab for the pharmaceutical companies. Last time, and only time, I ever got a flu shot resulted in me dealing with a case of Bell's Palsy for 3 months and loss of income,and I almost lost the apartment I was renting at the time due to rent in arrears as a result. Swore to never get one again.
grunt 1/7/2014 5:17:46 PM Report

Exactly, Vicci!
iamtc 1/7/2014 5:56:55 PM Report

To fix all problems head for lcbo and pick up some whiskey problem solved
Zap 1/7/2014 6:22:56 PM Report

Get the shot become a carrier of the flu.(Idiot sheep) Waite until the truth comes out.(cancer on the rise) SOFT KILL. old school idiots.
CountryTrapper 1/7/2014 6:41:27 PM Report

Why stop there. I think all staff at the hospital who have aids should where a big ole A on their shirt to so we know who they are too. Flu shots should not be forced on anyone. I can see a lawsuit coming.
kamen 1/7/2014 6:45:41 PM Report

Screw that I am wearing a mask when I go in tomorrow. I almost don't want to go in for my surgery and I am going to force my mom to wear a mask when we go in for my surgery.
Gurpy 1/7/2014 6:57:33 PM Report

I tried the flu shot for approx. three years in a row. Was sicker than a dog! Caught anything and everything! Now, I wash my hands, take vitamins, eat healthy and use echinecea when I feel something coming on. They can take their flu shot and stick it where the sun don`t shine!!
bemo13 1/7/2014 7:04:13 PM Report

how is the flu shot being forced on anyone? it didn't say once that anyone was being forced to get it. they're simply protecting their patients. you either get the shot, or you wear a mask. nothing to get all worked up about.
Stugatzu 1/7/2014 7:54:58 PM Report

Visitors may not be going from patient to patient to patient -- but they are certainly introducing germs to an otherwise sterile environment.

It is a bit discriminatory to force hospital staff to wear face masks, when visitors don't even have to wash their hands when they enter.

Interestingly, it is strongly advised against getting the flu shot, if you're trying to conceive and pregnancy is in your future.

That in itself has got to tell you something about this chemical cocktail BS they want to inject into people... oh.. it's good for you, but not for your fetus.
Tag33&1/3rd 1/7/2014 8:19:43 PM Report

Agreed Stug! and about the visitors.
JustMe1234567 1/7/2014 9:01:14 PM Report

Oh Soo how I luv you.
I had no idea people had such opposing views about the flu shot.
There was a recent ruckus in the US when a pregnant nurse was fired for refusing the shot. Google: *nurse fired flu shot*
Maybe hospitals should have a clear mandate set out for employees.
The shot or the mask. There is a choice at least.
Just my opinion.
sinikka 1/7/2014 9:02:00 PM Report

Why are people so opinionated when there is a choice for those employed in the health care sector. Get a flu shot or wear a mask. What is the problem. Are your rights being violated., please high and mighty people. Seems like an easy choice for hospital staff. You are not sacrificing anything. I see all hospital staff having to wear a uniform as a condition of their employment. Well then call this a wardrobe change. Heck we will let some of you pick different coloured masks if it pleases you. If the staff and/or the union has a problem with this request then they are arguing for the sake of arguing.
Tom_Bom 1/7/2014 9:50:59 PM Report

I'm so full of rot gut whiskey there isn't a darn thing that can infect me. So either way i'm good.
Bach 1/7/2014 10:10:34 PM Report

There will never be a safe vaccine :)
coy 1/8/2014 5:51:55 AM Report

Everyone has the right to refuse what goes into their body.Why aren't ALL SAH staff wearing a mask whether you have the flu shot or not? It is part of your Personal Protective Equipment and the hosp is a gathering place of all sickness and diseases. Or does the flu shot make you invisible?
anama 1/8/2014 6:54:12 AM Report

Just another way to bully their staff. They are good at that. Have you ever tried to work 12 hrs. in a dry hot environment with a hot, dry mask on? Any job there is hard enough, without having to wear a mask to make it even more unpleasant and difficult. Typical- their decisons, looks good on paper, not so realistic when trying to implement it.The ones making these rules don't have to abide by them.They should wear a mask, because they should be ashamed of themselves.Forcing people to get vaccinations that aren't even possibly safe or effective, and then when you make your own decision for your life and body, they force a punishment upon you. Interestingly, any other hospitals in the nation come up with this tactic? highly unlikely. They used to have a prize draw for those who took the vaccine, as an incentive to get some mastermind came up with this idea.
Nunavut 1/8/2014 9:08:56 AM Report

This is just plain silly. The flu shot should not be forced on anyone especcially young nurses that may also be planning or not planning to be pregnant. The alternative to be forced to wear a mask is also silly because when we see the Doctors or Nurses actually wearing them fulltime and still be able to give advice to patients using their voice will require pulling down of mask anyway so they can talk clearly.
joodeesoo 1/8/2014 10:51:41 AM Report

If nurses are being forced to wear masks for not taking a flu shot, what about the doctors? Many of them will not and have not taken a flu shot and still walk around unmasked, treating patients. Why is it always the worker bees who are forced to endure a punishment (as I see it) and not the Queen been who remains so pampered and unaffected by their decision. Also, this is just another way of forcing nurses to put something foreign into their bodies which they have elected not to. Whatever happened to human rights and the Charter of Rights and Freedom. I thought this was for everyone, not just the elite of society!
The_claw 1/8/2014 11:04:25 AM Report

Read below 11 reasons why flu shots are more dangerous than the flu itself. Sources for this article include: - H1N1 Vaccine Ingredients and Warnings - H1N1 Expert Says Scientists Are Clueless About Immune Reactions to Vaccinations - Study Again Finds Narcolepsy Risk With H1N1 Flu Vaccine - Inflammatory Response After Influenza Vaccination in Men With and Without Carotid Artery Disease - Conflicts of Interest in Vaccine Policy Making - VRM: 5 Reasons Not To Get The Flu Shot - Is Your Child High-Risk for an Adverse Vaccine Reaction? - Natural Alternatives to the Flu Shot Prove Just as Effective
1. Lack of real evidence that young children even benefit from flu shots 51 studies involving 260,000 children age 6 to 23 months established no evidence that the flu vaccine is any more effective than a placebo. Additionally, flu shots only protect against certain strains of the virus meaning that you can still easily get the flu if you come into contact with a different strain of virus.
2. Flu vaccines contain other dangerous ingredients such as mercury The pharmaceutical industry, medical experts and the mainstream media are candid in telling us that flu vaccines contain strains of the flu virus. What they are less likely to reveal though is the long list of other ingredients that come with the vaccine. It is now a known fact that flu vaccines contain mercury, a heavy metal known to be hazardous for human health. Mercury toxicity can cause depression, memory loss, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory problems, ADD, oral health problems, digestive imbalances and other serious health issues.
3. The flu shot can cause Alzheimer's disease Evidence now suggests that flu vaccines can cause Alzheimer's disease. Research conducted by Dr. Hugh Fudenberg, a leading immunogeneticist, shows that those who consistently get the flu vaccine increase their risk of Alzheimer's disease by 10 fold. He believes this is due to the toxic combination of aluminum and mercury in the vaccine. Additionally, introducing the flu virus to an elderly person (who with age will naturally have a weaker immune system) will only increase the chances of that individual becoming susceptible to more serious illness.
4. The very people pushing flu vaccinations are making billions of dollars each year In August 1999, the Committee on Government Reform initiated an investigation into Federal vaccine policy. This investigation focused on possible conflicts of interest on the part of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The investigation concluded that many individuals serving on two key advisory committees had financial ties to the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture vaccines. Often, these individuals were granted waivers to fully participate in the discussions that led to recommendations on vaccine licensing and adding vaccines to the Childhood Immunization Schedule. This in itself creates serious doubt as to how effective flu vaccines really are.
5. The flu vaccines actually do not immunize but sensitize the body against the virus Have you ever noticed how vaccinated children get sick almost immediately following a vaccination? This is because the flu virus is introduced into their bodies. So rather than immunize, the flu shot actually only sensitizes the body against the virus. And the fact that it causes individuals to get ill following a shot indicates immuno-suppression (i.e. lowering of the immunity).
6. Makes you more susceptible to pneumonia and other contagious diseases For someone with an already suppressed immune system, injecting strains of the flu virus can have devastating consequences. If your body is already working to fight off a virus or simply operating with low immunity, a vaccine injection could put your body in serious danger of contracting influenza with stronger symptoms, or even worse pneumonia and other contagious diseases.
7. Vascular disorders Medical research shows flu shots are associated with an increased risk of vascular inflammation. Symptoms include fever, jaw pain, muscle aches, pain and stiffness in the neck, upper arms, shoulder and hips and headache.
8. Children under the age of 1 are at risk Children under 1 years of age are highly vulnerable to a neurotoxic breach of the delicate nerve center surrounding the brain and central nervous system. The first round of the flu vaccine is administered at age 6 months. A child under the age of 1 lacks sufficient protection to guard against premature damage to the blood barrier in the brain.
9. Increased risk of narcolepsy There have been dozens of reported cases of children in 12 different countries who have developed narcolepsy (a chronic sleep disorder) after receiving the flu vaccine. The study, which took place between October 2009 and the December 2011, compared 3.3 million vaccinated Swedes with 2.5 million who were not vaccinated. The risk was found to be highest among the youngest people who took the vaccines. For those under the age of 21, the risk of contracting narcolepsy was three times higher.
10. Weakens immunological responses There have been literally thousands of medical journal articles published that show injecting vaccines can lead to harmful immunological responses and a host of other infections. Moreover, weak immunological responses only decrease a person's ability to fight the diseases that the vaccine was supposed to protect against in the first place.
11. Serious neurological disorders Evidence now suggests that ingredients in flu vaccinations can actually cause serious neurological disorders. In 1976 a significant number of those who received the flu vaccine acquired Guillain-Barr� Syndrome (GBS), a disorder characterized by permanent nerve damage and even paralysis. Flu vaccines can contain many harmful materials including detergent, mercury, formaldehyde, and strains of live flu virus. Read More: | Follow us on Facebook:
Grecks-Scrub 1/8/2014 11:10:20 AM Report

Its all about money. Less staff sick = less money they have to pay in sick time. The hospital is all about the bottom line...MONEY.....If you think the people at the top are making decisions based on Pt safety then like someone said earlier, why arent the patients wearing masks??? Why do the sick people get a free mask pass? because the hospital isnt paying for them to be off sick.

Its all about money people and how SAH can cut costs to save it. And yes it is a bully tactic.
coy 1/8/2014 11:15:54 PM Report

My take on this is this: We all know how long it takes for drugs/vaccines to be passed through by gov't, red tape bureaucrats when they are researched for years. Tell me how can they get research data so fast for a flu strain vaccine that may change yearly? It makes no sense. Here is the kicker - during flu season anyone who dies whether it be from a heart attack or stroke or what have you automatically gets put into data as the fault of the flu. Really has it come to this trying to drum up data to sell the vaccine? I have a healthy immune system, I have worked in a medical environment for 10 years never been sick, never had the flu vaccine. Know too many side effect of this vaccine. I will wear a mask if I have to, I see it as protecting me from those who may be ill and not know it.
coy 1/8/2014 11:39:01 PM Report

To iamtc and Tom_Bom I like your way of thinking. You are well preserved with alcohol nothing will be able to survive in that kind of environment. May have to try that myself.
Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
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