No free flu jabs for homecare staff

Last updated 12:58 22/04/2014

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Two homecare providers in Marlborough do not have to provide free flu jabs to staff working with vulnerable patients, it has emerged.

Nelson Marlborough District Health Board is investigating whether other district health boards in New Zealand made their home-based support service contractors stump up for the vaccinations.

The board subsidises flu jabs for all its staff but not for its homecare contractors.

The Public Service Association, which represents homecare workers, said homecare staff should get the same access to flu jabs as board staff.

As at the end of March, 821 people in Marlborough received home-based support.

The board's four homecare contractors who work with elderly patients in Marlborough were surveyed to see whether they paid for staff vaccinations - only Presbyterian Support offered its staff free flu vaccinations.

Healthcare of New Zealand confirmed its staff had to pay for flu jabs if they wanted them.

Leading healthcare provider Access said it was not financially viable for it to pay for staff flu jabs.

Access chief executive Graeme Titcome said he had canvassed all district health boards in New Zealand to offer free flu jabs for home support workers.

"I am not aware of any district health board in New Zealand offering free vaccinations to home support workers. We have had one or two boards making such an offer in the past but none doing so consistently and we have had no positive responses that I am aware of this year."

Florence Nightingale Agency refused to comment to the Marlborough Express regarding subsidised staff flu vaccinations.

Presbyterian Support general manager for Marlborough and Nelson, Chris Walsh, said the agency offered free flu jabs to staff.

"They can either go through their GP and are reimbursed, or we can arrange for them to have inoculations elsewhere and we pay on account," Walsh said.

Nelson and Marlborough District Health Board, which funds homecare contractors, said there was no obligation by its contractors to pay for flu jabs for their staff.

The board's general manager of strategy, planning and alliance support, Dr Sharon Kletchko, said the board was investigating whether other district health boards expect homecare contractors to fund flu jabs for their staff.

Kletchko said the cost of vaccinations could be a contributory factor.

"The employers of home-based support services staff would have to make a business decision to pay for vaccination and may have to weigh up this cost against the cost of finding replacement staff to cover absences due to influenza over winter."

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The health board funds a flu vaccination programme for health and clerical staff working in its hospitals and the community to protect staff and patients.

- Nelson

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