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Flu vaccines still available for free from health centres

Vaccine takes 2-4 weeks to be fully active

Total patient numbers at the accident and emergency department grew by 15 per cent over the past days. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Total patient numbers at the accident and emergency department grew by 15 per cent over the past days. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

People still have time to get vaccinated against the flu, which has hit the island hard this year, seeing a surge in people admitted to hospital.

The flu vaccines are still available for free from all health centres for anyone aged six months and over. The vaccine takes between two and four weeks to be fully active, but the influenza season is expected to last longer, Superintendent for Public Health Charmaine Gauci said.

Patient numbers at the accident and emergency department grew by 15 per cent over the past days, compared to the same period last year.

Figures show that the total number of people going to the Accident and Emergency at Mater Dei Hospital increased from 324 on December 31 of 2016 to 401 on December 31,2017.

The increase continued through the following days.

Patient numbers at the accident and emergency department grew by 15 per cent over the past days, compared to the same period last year

On the first day of 2017, there were 363 A&E attendances at Mater Dei, compared to 442 on January 1 of this year. The attendances in general on Tuesday stood at 474 – again, higher than the 432 of January 2, 2017.

Dr Gauci told the Times of Malta it was advisable for people who are suffering from influenza to seek advice from their family doctor especially if they had high fever, the symptoms did not improve after seven days, the patient was a young child or aged over 65, pregnant, had a chronic medical condition, or had a weakened immune system.

The family doctor will then assess the patient and refer them to further secondary care as required. Urgent referrals to hospital included sudden chest pain, difficulty in breathing and coughing up blood.

The health authorities had already warned, back in October when the vaccination campaign was launched, that this year’s flu season would be “harsh”.

This week, hospital sources told this newspaper that the surge in admission of people suffering from flu complications has stressed everyone out – from cleaners to consultants.

Mater Dei CEO Ivan Falzon, who commended hospital employees for their commitment and dedication, said when contacted that some wards and areas were being temporarily used for inpatient activity, in line with a planned escalation plan.

Meanwhile, the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses reminded management about a directive it ordered some five years ago that ensures staff are not transferred to other wards.

The directive, still in place, was implemented when nurses were being asked to move to other wards with a sudden influx of patients.

These transfers had decreased the staff complement in some places where it was already low, increasing pressure on nurses.

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