Doctors, nurses, paramedics and other frontline health staff will be compelled to have influenza vaccinations to keep treating patients if new laws pass through parliament.
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The move has been welcomed by staff at Ballarat Health Services, which already has one of the highest rates of influenza vaccine uptake among staff in the state.
Across the entire service, 84 per cent of staff received the influenza vaccine last year but among some sites, particularly aged care, up to 100 per cent of staff and residents had the flu shot.
"This can keep our staff safe, make them safe to go home to their family, and also help protect our patients so they do not get influenza from staff if they come in to our care," said BHS chief medical officer Associate Professor Rosemary Aldrich.
During last year's flu season BHS treated 647 cases of influenza - an infection rate of 625 per 100,000 population and the peak of the flu season ran from the start of May to the end of October, months longer than the usual flu season which peaks from June to September.
In 2018 there were just 85 cases treated.
"Last year was the worst flu season we have seen. It's important our health care workers are vaccinated to protect themselves and the patients they care for," she said.
"(The vaccination) won't necessarily protect a person from getting the flu but it will minimise or reduce the severity and length of the condition."
"It's especially important for patients who are vulnerable or have chronic conditions that make exposure to influenza more dangerous for them."
(The vaccination) won't necessarily protect a person from getting the flu but it will minimise or reduce the severity and length of the condition.- BHS chief medical officer Associate Professor Rosemary Aldrich
Healthcare workers must also be fully immunised against whooping cough, measles, chicken pox and hepatitis B.
Under the new legislation, workers who refuse to be vaccinated may face work restrictions or be redeployed to other parts of the health service - similar to measures already in place at BHS.
Dr Raquel Cowan, BHS director of infectious diseases, said people with influenza could be contagious for 24 to 48 hours before symptoms emerge, and the nature of influenza meant some people ended up very unwell in hospital, and others only suffered from a mild illness.
"There is quite a high mortality and death rate associated with complications of the flu," Dr Cowan said.
Dr Cowan said the high staff immunisation rate at BHS was the result of years of improvement and making it easy for staff to receive the vaccination.
Immunisation staff come in at all hours of the day and night to vaccinate staff on night duty and shifts, they walk through the hospital with their immunisation trolley to vaccinate staff where they are caring for patients, set up in different areas of the hospital at different times over a number of weeks, and even set up in the cafe to maximise the number of people who receive the flu jab.
"We make it really easy for staff to roll up sleeves get it done and off we go," Dr Cowan said.
Last year BHS introduced a rapid result pathology test for suspected influenza cases which provided a diagnosis within 45 minutes, allowing staff to quickly isolate anyone people if necessary and stop it spreading any further.
Victorian health minister Jenny Mikakos introduced the Health Services Amendment (Mandatory Vaccination of Healthcare Workers) Bill 2020 in to parliament on Wednesday.
All healthcare workers in public and private hospitals and ambulance services with direct patient contact will be required to be vaccinated, including doctors, nurses, paramedics, dentists, orderlies, cleaners and staff working in public sector residential aged care services.
"Ensuring our dedicated healthcare workers are vaccinated provides them with a greater level of personal protection, while also reducing the spread of diseases to vulnerable patients," Ms Mikakos said.
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