By Steph McNicol
FAMILIES have responded well to compulsory flu shots before visiting elderly or specially cared for relatives, according to The Kilmore and District Hospital staff.
Since May this year, influenza vaccinations have become a compulsory prerequisite to visiting loved ones in care, making it a barrier for some people to see their family.
Staff said community of aged care residents at the hospital’s facilities, Dianella and Caladenia, had responded well to the new rules.
Caladenia nurse unit manager of aged care and district nursing services Rebecca van de Paverd, Dianella hostel manager Bernie Lavars and infection control nurse Samantha White agreed the vaccinations were necessary.
“From the moment we found out about the requirement, we engaged with our residents and their families around why this was needed and how we would work with them to ensure a smooth transition to the requirement,” Ms van de Paverd said.
“By starting these conversations early, our families were able to access flu vaccinations as soon as they became available which resulted in a high uptake and declaration of their status.”
Mr Lavars said both facilities had undertaken surveys to get feedback.
“We are also undertaking consumer experience surveys to understand the outcomes of the decisions and what can be improved,” he said.
Ms van de Paverd said some of the aged care residents found the restrictions difficult, especially with family members aged younger than 16.
“Most have provided feedback that they feel it is necessary to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 or influenza and understand why it’s necessary,” she said.
“We have had feedback that residents feel safe and secure in our facility and know we are doing our best to prevent an outbreak.”
The hospital had enabled residents to stay in contact with their families through other platforms including phone calls, Skype calls, and window visits.
The hospital had to replace the work of two hairdressers, one of whom had ‘health concerns’, but managed to recommence appointments at both facilities.
“We do need to abide by State Government directions for visitors’ restrictions and we understand this has been difficult for those who chose not to have the flu vaccination but we are mandated to follow the direction,” Ms van de Paverd said.
Ms White said compulsory flu vaccinations were vital for the health of residents.
“[We want] to prevent outbreaks of influenza in a facility, which results in facility lock down and residents being confined to their rooms and increases the risk of poor health outcomes for residents who have many comorbidities,” she said.
“Influenza is not a mild illness and can have significant impacts on an older person’s health and wellbeing.
“By ensuring our residents and all those who have contact with them are vaccinated, we can significantly decrease the risk of them acquiring influenza.”
The hospital and aged care facility staff thanked the community, residents and families for their support and understanding.