Pregnant and elderly patients are at risk of ill health because the vast majority of hospital and nursing home staff are failing to get the flu jab.
New figures from the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre show, despite the genuine danger of the virus to frail patients, most medics are still choosing not to be inoculated. According to the official statistics, based on responses from 45 acute hospitals and 183 facilities such as nursing homes, last winter just 17.4% of hospital staff and 15% of workers in long-term care facilities received the flu jab, from 18% last year.
The hospital and nursing home sectors with the highest uptake rate were medical/dental workers (23.5%) and management (22.6%). However, nurses (12.5%) and health and social care professionals (11.6%) fell far behind, despite the fact that these individuals work closely with vulnerable patients.
The rates contradict clearly stated HSE guidelines calling for all workers to be vaccinated to cut down on the risk to patients. They also come after further concerns were raised by independent State watchdog the Health Information Quality Authority last year in response to the deaths of seven elderly people who died at a nursing home in Buncrana, Co Donegal, which was hit by an unexpected flu outbreak.
The HSE is conducting a survey on the challenges facing hospitals and long-term facilities such as nursing homes in meeting the inoculation guidelines.
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