Public health in Ontario delivers, promotes and provides each fall the universal influenza immunization program. This paper addresses the question of whether Ontario public health agencies are able to provide the influenza immunization program within the Ministry of Health fiscal funding envelope of $5 per dose.
Actual program delivery data from the 2006 influenza season of Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health (WDGPH) were used to create a model template for influenza clinics capturing all variable costs. Promotional and administrative costs were separated from clinic costs. Maximum staff workloads were estimated. Vaccine clinics were delivered by public health staff in accordance with standard vaccine administration practices.
The most significant economic variables for influenza clinics are labour costs and number of vaccines given per nurse per hour. The cost of facility rental was the only other significant cost driver. The ability of influenza clinics to break even depended on the ability to manage these cost drivers. At WDGPH, weekday flu clinics required the number of vaccines per nurse per hour to exceed 15, and for weekend flu clinics this number was greater than 21. We estimate that 20 vaccines per hour is at the limit of a safe workload over several hours. Managing cost then depends on minimizing hourly labour costs.
The results of this analysis suggest that by managing the labour costs along with planning the volume of patients and avoiding expensive facilities, flu clinics can just break even. However, any increased costs, including negotiated wage increases or the move to safety needles, with a fixed revenue of $5.00 per dose will negate this conclusion.