Eliminating flu shot coverage makes no sense: Michael
A recent provincial government decision that will effectively bar people from getting flu shots from their family doctors is not sitting well with NDP Health Critic Lorraine Michael. In an unusual public policy change, the provincial government recently delisted flu shots from doctors’ billing codes. The change means patients going to doctors for flu shots will pay for the service as well as the vaccine, which looks very much like a user fee for a medically necessary service, Michael says.
Today in Question Period, she attempted to uncover the rationale government was using to justify the decision – and indeed, how it expects already-busy community clinics to accommodate tens of thousands of extra visits every fall.
“Government plans to eliminate the MCP fee code that pays doctors to give flu shots. We are told people can go to community health clinics,” she said. “But community health clinics are limited in number and already have long wait times in cramped waiting areas.
“I ask the Minister of Health and Community Services, what extra resources has he put into community health clinics to accommodate thousands of additional clients as doctors stop holding flu shot clinics?”
Newfoundland and Labrador has one of the lowest rates of people who get the flu shot every year, Michael says.
“Doctors administer flu shots to 60,000 people annually, half the provincial total. We have the 2nd lowest flu shot uptake in the country, which could get worse if people lose access to doctors for their shots,” she said. “In 2015-16 there were 218 flu hospitalizations, 49 ICU admissions and 8 deaths.
“How many more costly hospitalizations and deaths will occur by closing off this vital access to immunization?”