B.C. nurses no longer need to get flu vaccine or wear masks, can rely on 'professional judgment'
Union says new agreement will end 'punitive nature' of previous policy
Nurses in B.C. will no longer be required to receive the flu vaccine or wear a mask in patient care areas, according to the B.C. Nurses' Union (BCNU).
According to a statement from the union, a new agreement was reached with the Health Employers Association of B.C., that "[ensures] the professional judgement of nurses is respected."
It says the new agreement ends the "punitive nature" of the previous policy, and is consistent with the flu prevention efforts released by the Office of the Provincial Health officer.
Nurses will still be required to report to their employer if they've had a flu shot or not.
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province is trying to raise the levels of immunization by working with nurses instead of being punitive.
"Some of the systems we have in place haven't been working well enough," Dix said. "There are other steps we'll be taking together to raise the level of immunizations and we'll see the results."
Union president Christine Sorensen, said the issue has been contentious since the obligation to wear a mask or get immunized was introduced in 2012.
"This allows the nurse to use their professional judgment to understand the effectiveness of the flu vaccine, to take the flu vaccine because it benefits them personally and professionally, and then they can, when providing care to their patients, again utilize their professional judgment to decide whether or not they need to wear a mask," said Sorenson.
Sorenson said the requirement to use masks compromised care by sometimes confusing patients with mental health issues or hindering communication with patients with hearing issues.
The BCNU first filed an industry wide application dispute after health authorities refused to revoke their mandatory "vaccinate or mask" policy in 2015.
With files from Meera Bains