'Bribery works' - Hotel stay offered to up DHB flu jab rates

Source: Radio New Zealand

A night in a luxury hotel is being used to entice staff at the Taranaki District Health Board to get a flu vaccination as it declares itself a 'fortress' against winter ailments.

Taranaki DHB's Cameron Grant-Fargie.

By Robin Martin of rnz.co.nz

Only about 50% of staff have had the jab so far and close to 200 kaimahi are off sick on any one day - absences compounding an already stubborn list of vacancies.

A roving vaccination unit is going from ward to ward across both day and night shifts at Taranaki Base Hospital in an effort to get staffed immunised against the flu.

Integrated Operations Centre manager Cameron Grant-Fargie said a healthy staff was crucial to the DHB being able to do its job.

"We're calling ourselves a fortress because actually we've got to stay strong. We've got to vaccinate ourselves, we've got to be well for our communities.

"We're sitting around 50% of our staff vaccinated right now but in previous years we've been sitting around 87%."

He said between 5 and 7% of the DHB's 2500 staff were on sick leave with flu, Covid or other respiratory illnesses on any given day.

That combined with an occupancy rate of about 97% across the DHB's two hospitals - including an average of 10 Covid in-patients - meant the system was under stress.

"I would say we're under pressure and we're challenged by recruitment of staff at the borders because they've been closed for quite a while.

"We normally rely on a decent amount of inward flow of internationally qualified staff, so that on top of sick leave does challenge us.

"So we would probably describe ourselves as having some pressures."

Occupational Health Nurse Lauren Piercy was in charge of getting staff vaccinated against the flu.

Occupational health nurse Lauren Piercy.

She was confident the DHB would hit the 80% immunised target.

"We're doing really well, we're now at 51% and I just think it's that availability and people getting used to being familiar with having flu again this year because we've had two years of not having flu because of the borders being closed."

And then there were those prizes.

"Every week for the next seven to eight weeks we've got something to give away, so that's from coffee vouchers, to Pressie cards, to Centre City vouchers, movie vouchers and then we've also got a Google speaker we are going to give away.

"We've got food hampers to give to the first five departments that get to 80% immunised and we also have that big prize of the Kings and Queens night."

Kings and Queens Hotel Suites general manager Daniel Fleming said the business was keen to support the DHB during what were difficult times.

"Bribery works doesn't it, so the whole idea was just to give them a nice staycation experience, and we've put up one of our Premium Lux Suites.

"So, they're valued at around $380 per night, French bathtub, balcony, seaviews, super king bed, beautiful rain shower and all the treats, Ozone coffee, Public Catering biscuits and all here in the heart of the West End Precinct."

It appeared to be doing the trick.

"From what I've heard so far it's working and people are pretty excited to at least have the opportunity to win something and I think it's nice. I think it's just another way of incentivising [people to get the jab].

"I think people will be keen. I think everybody needs a break at the moment and everybody's under a bit of pressure and stress."

Piercy said there had been a few cheeky notes coming through on vaccination paperwork.

"There has been a few people sending through their forms now saying they are the winner of the Kings and Queens night, so there's definitely been a big uptake since that's been announced, and I mean who wouldn't be excited about a night away there?"

Coinciding with the Fortress DHB initiative visitor screening kiosks have also been rolled out at all public entrances to Taranaki DHB buildings.

The touch screens ask visitors health-related questions including whether they have got flu or Covid symptoms or if people are isolating at their address.