B.C. VIEWS: Help the hospital, get a flu shot

Health care unions are ordered to protect vulnerable patients after losing a self-centred, anti-science battle to refuse

Police officer receives a flu shot at the B.C. legislature. Emergency services personnel are immunized every year

Police officer receives a flu shot at the B.C. legislature. Emergency services personnel are immunized every year

VICTORIA – I got my influenza shot this week, paid for out of pocket since I don’t qualify for any of the higher-risk groups provided with free immunization.

A reminder to take this simple health precaution came in October when a labour arbitrator ruled that it is a reasonable employment requirement for health care workers to either get the current immunization or mask up in patient care areas.

Quiet advocacy by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall has paid off. Staff, doctors, outside contractors and visitors will have to put patients first.

Health care unions pressed a grievance on behalf of members who insist they have a right to refuse immunization and increase exposure to patients. They have apparently run up the white flag.

“We will be telling our members to comply with the new policy, or risk being fired,” said an overly dramatic Val Avery, president of the Health Sciences Association. HSA lawyers led the grievance, supported by the Hospital Employees’ Union and the B.C. Nurses’ Union.

Avery said the union will continue to urge its members to take advantage of on-site flu shot clinics. That’s right, like most provincial employees, they all get immunization that is not only free but administered at work.

Kendall announced the regulation last year, after finding that 40 per cent of employees in long-term care were not getting the current influenza vaccine, and the rate of immunization was declining.

Their objections make no sense. Aside from the self-serving “rights” argument, they complain that the annual flu vaccine isn’t effective enough.

The formula is developed by international effort to track the dominant strains that emerge as winter rolls around the world. Kendall says a poor match results in about 40 per cent immunity, and a good match reaches 90 per cent. At the risk of stating the obvious, he notes that even 40 per cent is better than nothing.

After two weeks of expert testimony, arbitrator Robert Diebolt, a retired UBC law professor, wrote as follows:

“It is indisputable that influenza can be a serious, even fatal, disease. Immunization also indisputably provides a measure of protection to health care workers and I have found that their immunization reduces influenza transmission to patients.

“I have also concluded that there is a real and serious patient safety issue and the policy is a helpful program to reduce patient risk.”

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control calculates that if all health care workers would get immunized, the risk to patients would be reduced nearly 50 per cent. The Ministry of Health warns: “you can spread influenza for 24 hours before you have any symptoms.”

What would cause educated health care workers to defy common sense? A hint is provided by professional union promoter and publicist Bill Tieleman, who railed about the decision on his blog.

This regulation is inspired by big bad U.S. health care corporations that would rather impose immunization than pay for sick days, Tieleman asserts. Ah, so an infected health care employee should wander the wards until symptoms emerge, and then go home for a few days of paid rest. What a perfectly stupid idea!

Last week BCNU president Debra McPherson was warning about “chaos” at the new Surrey Memorial emergency ward, her latest of a career of media protests. The big new facility is already overflowing, and more beds and more staff are needed, stat!

Perhaps if better preventive measures were taken by nurses, doctors and other staff, this chronic “chaos” would be reduced and these unions would have more credibility.

To find your nearest flu shot clinic, see here.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalNews.com. Twitter:@tomfletcherbc

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pioneer Arena is closing for the season. Photo: John Boivin
Castlegar’s Pioneer Arena and Nelson Civic Centre closing for season

RDCK is closing the ice at two of its arenas due to financial concerns related to COVID-19

A juvenile sturgeon in a B.C. rearing facility. The wild population in the Upper Columbia is estimated at 1,100 individuals, enhanced with roughly 5,500 hatchery fish. (file photo)
B.C.’s Upper Columbia sturgeon endure long battle with local extinction

Decades of monitoring and intervention is ongoing to save the prehistoric fish

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

RCMP responded to a report early Friday morning of a suspect firing a gun at a Salmo home. Photo: Black Press
RCMP arrest woman who fired shots at Salmo home

The woman allegedly discharged a firearm early Friday morning

Summit Ski Hill had a delayed start to the season because of warm temperatures. Photo: Summit Ski Hill
Late season start frustrating for Nakusp ski hill

Summit Ski Hill only just opened Jan. 14

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage addresses the attendees while Tom Olsen, Managing Director of the Canadian Energy Centre, looks on at a press conference at SAIT in Calgary on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Greg Fulmes
‘Morally and ethically wrong:’ Court to hear challenge to Alberta coal policy removal

At least 9 interveners will seek to join a rancher’s request for a judicial review of Alberta’s decision

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Standardized foundation skills assessment tests in B.C. schools will be going ahead later than usual, from Feb. 16 to March 12 for students in Grades 4 and 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. teachers say COVID-affected school year perfect time to end standardized tests

Foundational skills testing of Grade 4 and 7 students planned for February ad March

Most Read