OD patients given medicine at Vancouver ER as part of unique program

People walk past ambulances in the Emergency bay at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, B.C

Gerry Kahrmann / PNG

A Vancouver emergency department has become the first in Canada to give overdose patients take-away packs of medication aimed at warding off withdrawal symptoms and getting them into treatment.

Dr. Andrew Kestler, a co-lead of the program at St. Paul’s Hospital, says patients get a three-day supply of Suboxone and easy-to-understand instructions from a nurse.

He says the idea is to prevent barriers to treatment because many patients are not able to even get a prescription filled at a pharmacy after being discharged.

Kestler says five women and three men have so far been given the medication and emergency departments around the province have shown interest in the project that could potentially be adopted across the country.

He says patients from the hospital can also access a clinic in the same building so they can be connected with a doctor in the community before being followed up by an outreach team.

The two-year innovative pilot project will be evaluated by the B.C. Centre on Substance Use in the province with the highest number of overdose deaths in Canada.

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