October 12, 2010

Province launches flu shot campaign

Public health nurse Ellen Christie (left) gives Winnipeg Health Region president Arlene Wilgosh her annual flu shot at the Aikins Street Community Health Centre at 601 Aikins, as part of the provincial influenza campaign launch.

Health Minister Theresa Oswald launched the province's 2010 no-cost influenza immunization campaign today, urging all Manitobans to get the shot, not the flu.

"We encourage all Manitobans to take advantage of the no-cost shots and take the first steps against coming down with the flu and possibly spreading it to others," Oswald said during a campaign kick-off at the Aikins Street Community Health Clinic this morning.

"I got the shot, not the flu and you should, too."

Manitobans can make arrangements to get a flu shot through their family doctor. In addition, the Winnipeg Health Region will be launching its immunization campaign with 12 clinics between Oct. 19 and 23.

Each year, influenza infects about 10 to 25 per cent of Canadians. The vast majority who become infected with influenza generally manage to suffer through with nothing more than a few days of discomfort. But influenza can be deadly, killing between 4,000 to 8,000 people a year in Canada, most of whom are older and in frail health.

Health officials believe the number of people who become sick or die from influenza can be reduced. The best way to reduce your risk of becoming infected with influenza or spreading it to someone else is to get vaccinated every fall before the start of influenza season. That's partly why Manitoba Health has decided to make flu vaccinations available at no charge to anyone who wants one this year.

In launching the flu shot campaign, Oswald also recognized Family Doctor Week.

"Providing flu shots is just a small part of the important role family physicians play in our lives," Oswald said. "It is very gratifying to be able to recognize the significant contribution these doctors make on a daily basis to the health and well-being of Manitobans."

The College of Family Physicians of Canada promotes Family Doctor Week to recognize the dedication of Canadian family doctors to their patients and the importance of the patient-doctor relationship that defines family medicine.

"We are pleased to be able to mark Family Doctor Week and the important role of family medicine," said Arlene Wilgosh, President & CEO of the Winnipeg Health Region. "The Region is working diligently to form closer working relationships with family physicians, incorporating their ideas and feedback into changes within the system."

The minister noted the province's successful ongoing efforts to increase the number of doctors providing front-line care to Manitobans and increase their capacity to see patients more quickly, ensuring families have timely access to family doctors. There has been a net increase of 405 doctors, including 223 family doctors, since 1999 in Manitoba. Currently there are 2,442 medical doctors in the province; 1,258 are general physicians and 1,184 are specialists.

The minister said the Manitoba government has embarked on an aggressive strategy to increase its doctor supply by increasing seats at the University of Manitoba, providing substantial tuition rebates for medical school graduates practicing in Manitoba, creating incentives for practicing in rural and northern Manitoba and creating a family medical-residency program focused on underserved areas of the province. The province has also focused on increasing the capacity of family doctors to see more patients including implementing Advanced Access, an initiative to help clinics reduce the wait to see family doctors.

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