While we are experiencing a relatively mild early winter, we must not be complacent about the risks of influenza. We currently have two people in our ICU suffering severely from influenza and we have had two deaths so far. And this is before winter really breathes down our necks. There is every sign of influenza ramping up in the South Island and experience tells us it will work its way north to us. It appears that H1N1 is the main culprit and this is indeed the nasty beast which played havoc in the last northern winter.
Before we can properly care for our patients, we do need to care for ourselves. This includes an annual influenza vaccine. We did much better last year than in previous years. Last year we managed to achieve 3rd best in the country for staff influenza immunisations. This year we are tracking slightly behind this but there is still time for staff to get a free vaccine at Occupational Health. I do ask you to do this as the vaccine is proven and effective. And please do urge your patients to get immunised which is free for most of them until the end of July. 1.7 million New Zealanders have been immunised so far this year, but we know a lot of vulnerable people in our community have not taken up the offer, afraid because of misconceptions around the vaccine causing influenza or just not being advised to by their medical professionals.
I would like to congratulate the SuperClinic for a record 700 plus doses of influenza vaccine administered there up until the middle of last month. Five vaccinators have achieved this tally, and have managed to get a lot of patients as they wait for appointments.
I would like to also take this opportunity to thank all staff who work so hard when the double whammy of staff illness meets increased hospital attendance and illness in our community.