There are currently 15 seniors facilities in the Interior Health region listed on the Active Outbreak list during this flu season. All 15 are closed to the public due to respiratory infection. They include the Kimberley Special Care Home (the Pines) which was listed on January 21 and the Joseph Creek Seniors Village in Cranbrook, which was listed on January 23.
“It is standard practice around infection control,” said Karl Hardt, communications officer for Interior Health. “We ask people to stay away.”
The Bulletin received an email stating that health care workers at the Pines who have not been immunized with flu vaccine have been suspended without pay. They number about 12 individuals. Staff shortages have now reached critical levels, the email said.
“The Influenza Control Program gives staff the choice to get the flu shot or wear a mask during flu season,” said Jeff Betker, residential services administrator. “This policy has now been in place three years.
“When a Medical Health Officer declares an outbreak, as is currently the case at Kimberley Special Care Home (Pines), the Staff Influenza Immunization And Exclusion Policy comes into effect,” Betker said.
“During an outbreak, staff who have not had a flu shot can elect to take anviral medication (Tamiflu) and return to work or they wait until the outbreak is officially over before returning. Staff are not suspended, but are excluded from working at an outbreak site.
“This policy has been in place since 2003, and recognizes the risks to residents/patients are much higher during an outbreak situation.
“Other measures that we take during an outbreak include supporting residents who have symptoms with care in their rooms to avoid contact with other residents, increased housekeeping, and a request that family/friends who have not had their flu shot limit visits until the outbreak is over.
“To date, about a dozen Kimberley Special Care Home residents and five staff have had flu symptoms. Last new case was on Jan. 24.
“I can assure people that residents at Kimberley Special Care Home are still receiving good care during this current outbreak. We have not had any critical staffing challenges.”