December 4, 2009

Difference Between Getting H1N1 Flu Shot . . . Or Not

Walter Konareki heard stories about the long line-ups at the H1N1 flu shot clinics. He's in a motorized wheelchair and had concerns about not only getting to the location but also waiting in line. "Then I heard about this place," he says of the Home Bound Immunization Clinic at 755 Portage. "If I didn't come here, I wouldn't have gotten the shot."

Walter's needs are precisely the reason that the Home Bound Clinic was established. While there are clients who need to be immunized at home because health prevents them from getting to flu shot clinics, there are still others who are mobile but for who wait times can negatively impact their mental or physical health.

An ad in the Winnipeg Free Press and a network of community programs helped inform people about the by-appointment Home Bound Clinic. People called into the intake line (940-3236) and were screened based on the information they provided. Recommendations were made or appointments were scheduled for the Home Bound Clinic.

"One foster parent came in with three high needs children," says Donna Sale, who alternated Site Lead and screening responsibilities for the clinic with her counterpart, Pat Younger. "I can only imagine them going to mass immunization clinics with high needs children. The challenges that would bring, many would choose not to do it."

From community living clients with developmental or behavioural challenges to clients on ventilators, from those who are immuno compromised to high-risk ante-natal groups, people accessing the Home Bound Clinic have special needs. Those needs are as diverse as the age range - from as young as six months to as seasoned as 103! - of the near 1000 people who received their H1N1 flu shot at this clinic.

"I had to ask him what his secret was," says Andrea Herbert-Lugspin, a nurse immunizing at the clinic, of the 103 year old man. "He said he walks everyday. At 103, he only had a cane and was getting around just fine."

The calm atmosphere was particularly helpful for autistic children who would have found waiting in line very upsetting. If the clinic environment wasn't ideal for a particular child, nurses brought the child and their caregiver into a room and immunized them privately.

"Every day we knew that we had developed the right strategy for this group of clients. People would thank us and say they didn't know how they would have done it otherwise," says Pat.

While every H1N1 flu shot clinic was proactive and people focused, the Home Bound Clinic was especially focused on anticipating and meeting needs. One worker, for example, brought in one of her high needs clients to be immunized. The worker asked which clinic would be best for another one of her clients. Pat suggested the worker make an appointment at the Home Bound Clinic for her other client. Pat even brought the schedule to the recovery area so the worker could stay with her client while scheduling the other one to come in the following day.

Both Pat and Donna credit their staff and volunteers for their skills, but also for the consistency they offered clients. Initially five nurses a day were immunizing up to 160 people daily at the Home Bound Clinic. The ability to be in and out within about half an hour - including recovery time - was appreciated by many.

As for Walter? After joking around about rugby and the North End with Andrea, he realized that waiting for Handi Transit to arrive would take longer than receiving his H1N1 flu shot. Pat brought him a coffee in recovery, where he happily settled himself with a magazine.

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