Central Health has backtracked on its new policy on requiring unvaccinated employees to stay home on unpaid leave during influenza outbreaks.
The board had announced its flu shot policy in October, where staff at its facilities who didn’t get flu shots, and had no medical reason for doing so, would not be permitted to work during outbreaks. They would not be allowed to access banked leave, either.
The initial decision did not sit well with groups like the Newfoundland and Labrador Nurses’ Union.
But Central Health CEO Karen McGrath said while the union’s reaction to the original decision on flu shots wasn’t unexpected, that was not the reason behind Central Health’s decision to reverse its policy.
“It was really about the consultation we had with our other health authorities,” she explained. “And the belief that we should be consistent in our approach across Newfoundland and Labrador. Our policy was sort of ahead of many of them (the other health boards). We needed to step back and say, ‘there needs to be a consistent approach, and we need to take time to develop a consistent policy that can be used across the province.’”
Ms. McGrath added there needs to be further discussion about the issue, and come up with a consistent policy that has to be created because the flu campaign is a provincial one.
“Government is committed to more consistency across health authorities, which I think should be,” added the CEO. “Frankly, that’s what made us say, ‘let’s defer it for this year, and let’s work on a consistent policy.’”
The board has emphasized the importance of getting influenza immunizations, with ongoing education campaigns targeting staff members. Only 30 to 40 per cent of staff get vaccinations, however. The shots are not recommended for those with egg allergies, or who are undergoing chemotherapy.