Category "Family & Child"

9Mar

Daphne Bramham: Canada’s other public health crisis also needs urgent attention

by admin

There is a very real and deadly health crisis in B.C. from which two people died yesterday and two more will likely die today, tomorrow and the days after that.

It’s not COVID-19, and no news conference was hastily called to talk about it.

Most of those dead and dying are blue-collar guys in what should be the prime of their lives.

This is the reality as B.C. lurches into the fifth year of an opioid overdose crisis. It’s a seemingly unending emergency that by the end of 2019 had already killed 5,539 people here and more than 13,900 across Canada.

Five years in, this crisis has become normalized, with the only certainty as we face another day is that first responders are now better at resuscitating victims because, year over year, the calls have only continued to increase.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed his top ministers to a committee tasked with responding to the COVID-19 crisis. At that point, Canada had only 30 confirmed cases. Of the 21 B.C. cases, four of the patients have fully recovered.

Not to belittle the concerns about COVID-19 becoming a global pandemic, but with nearly 14,000 dead already, no committee — high-level or otherwise — has yet been struck to devise a national addictions strategy that would deal not only with opioids, but also the biggest killer, which is alcohol. A 2019 report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information found that 10 Canadians die every day from substance use, and three-quarters of those deaths are alcohol-related.

During the 2019 election, the issue flared briefly after Conservatives placed ads — mainly through ethnic media — claiming that Trudeau’s Liberals planned to legalize all drugs, including heroin.

Already beleaguered, Trudeau not only denied it, he quickly disavowed the resolution overwhelmingly passed at the party’s 2018 convention that called on the Canadian government to treat addiction as a health issue, expand treatment and harm reduction services, and decriminalize personal-use possession of all drugs, with people diverted away from the criminal courts and into treatment.

Trudeau disavowed it again this week when a Liberal backbencher’s private member’s bill was put on the order paper.


Liberal member of Parliament Nathaniel Erskine-Smith (in front) pictured in 2018.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Depending on how you read Bill C-236, it’s either calling for decriminalization or legalization. Regardless, the fact that Nathaniel Erskine-Smith’s bill will be debated at least gets it on the political agenda because unless there are some major changes, Canadians are going to continue dying at these unacceptably high rates that have already caused the national life expectancy to drop.

Erskine-Smith, an Ontario MP from the Beaches-East York riding, favours a Portugal-style plan of which decriminalization plays only a small part.

But parliamentary rules forbid private member’s bills from committing the government to any new spending, so he said his bill could only narrowly focus on decriminalization.

The slim bill says charges could be laid “only if … the individual cannot be adequately dealt with by a warning or referral (to a program agency or service provider) … or by way of alternative measures.”

Erskine-Smith disagreed with the suggestion that it gives too much discretionary power to police — especially since in B.C., it’s prosecutors, not police, who determine whether charges are laid.

Still, what he proposes is quite different from what happens in Portugal.

There, police have no discretionary power. People found with illicit drugs are arrested and taken to the police station where the drugs are weighed, and the person is either charged with possession and sent to court or diverted to the Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Use to meet with social workers, therapists and addictions specialists who map out a plan.

Since private members’ bills rarely pass, Erskine-Smith doesn’t hold out much hope for his.

It created a firestorm on social media, with some recovery advocates pitted against advocates for harm reduction, including full legalization.

Related

Federal Conservatives also repeated their trope that drug legalization is part of Trudeau’s secret agenda.

Meanwhile, Alberta’s United Conservative government inflamed some harm-reduction advocates with the release of a report on the adverse social and economic impacts of safe consumption sites, even though it didn’t recommend shutting them down.

The report acknowledged that they play an important role in a continuum of care, but it also called for beefed-up enforcement to lessen the chaos that often surrounds them.

The committee questioned some data provided to them that suggested Lethbridge — population 92,730 — may be the world’s most-used injection site.

The committee also questioned why some operators report all adverse events, including non-life-threatening ones as overdoses, leaving the impression that without the sites “thousands of people would have fatally overdosed.”

Among its recommendations are better data collection using standardized definitions as well as better tracking of users to determine whether they are being referred to other services.

More than a year ago, Canadians overwhelmingly told the Angus Reid Institute that they supported mandatory treatment for opioid addiction.

Nearly half said they were willing to consider decriminalization. Nearly half also said that neither Ottawa nor the provinces were doing enough to ease the epidemic.

It seems Canadians are eager for change even if they’re not yet certain what it should look like. The only ones who seem reluctant are the politicians.

dbramham@postmedia.com

twitter.com/bramham_daphne

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25Feb

Daphne Bramham: It’s not enough to just keep overdose victims alive

by admin

There was some good news in the 2019 data from the B.C. Coroners Service. Overdose deaths in the province declined for the first time since fentanyl-tainted drugs hit the streets and a public health emergency was declared in 2016.

The decrease was significant — down 36 per cent from 2018 — even though the death toll remains heartbreakingly high. As B.C. enters its fifth year of the crisis, nearly three British Columbians are dying every day.

It does mean that all of the money poured into this crisis — for naloxone kits, the training for paramedics, medical professionals and laypeople in how to use naloxone, more supervised consumption sites, and more people now on prescriptions for drugs like methadone and Suboxone to staunch addicts’ opioid cravings — is keeping more people alive.

But that’s really where the good news ends.

Alarmingly, the number of 911 calls has continued to climb.

Paramedics and other first responders took more than 24,000 calls last year, with calls spiking to more than 130 overdose alerts on “cheque days” or “welfare Wednesdays.”

Being revived from an overdose or living with an opioid addiction comes at a high cost.

Opioids affect the receptors in the brain, causing breathing to become dangerously slow, which in turn slows the heart and sometimes causing cardiac arrest. When the hearts doesn’t pump at capacity, less oxygenated blood makes it to the brain. Without oxygen, brain cells die — and they don’t regenerate.

It’s called toxic brain injury.

Within the coming weeks or months, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control will release data on the prevalence of brain injury among opioid users, including those who have been successfully restored to life with naloxone.

“We know that many hundreds of people will need a lifetime of care,” said Dr. Perry Kendall, who raised the alarm during the coroner’s news conference earlier this week. “It will be a tremendous burden.”

It’s far from the only one.

The burden carried by first responders is different and no less costly. They are burning out and checking out of the system, unable to cope physically, mentally or emotionally with the constant stress of being called to deal with all the overdoses.

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This is not to say that harm-reduction measures aren’t working. No one disputes that they are keeping many people alive.

But until now, little attention has been focused on the quality of their lives, post-overdose.

Five years into the public health emergency, Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said B.C. still doesn’t have a comprehensive system that includes prevention, treatment and recovery.

The lack of a seamless system is particularly problematic and even deadly for people in rural areas and those coming out of jails and prisons, according to Dr. Nel Wieman, senior medical officer at the First Nations Health Authority.

The numbers back that up. The death rate in the Northern Health Authority, at 22.5 per 100,000, trails Vancouver Coastal, which has the highest rate, by a mere half a percentage point.

Regardless of where they live, Lapointe said families frequently tell coroners how their loved ones managed through detox only to come out and die while on the waiting list for a recovery bed.

The problem isn’t necessarily that there aren’t enough treatment beds. On most days, some lie empty because the government only funds treatment for welfare recipients. Everyone else has to pay their own way. And except for those with generous employee benefits, many can’t afford treatment that comes at a cost of $900-plus a day.

Lapointe also decried the lack of provincial treatment standards. Different operators have different approaches. Some aren’t evidence-based. Some are strictly abstinence-based and refuse to accept people on drug therapies such as methadone and Suboxone, even though without that, they are more vulnerable to overdose if they relapse.

Decriminalization is touted by some as the answer. Without fear of criminal charges, the theory is that people would be more willing to seek help.

They point to Portugal, where decriminalization was brought in as part of a massive overhaul of its drug treatment system.

But decriminalization has only worked there because Portugal also boosted spending on the other three pillars — prevention, enforcement and treatment.

Here, the crucial elements are missing. With a minority government in Ottawa, the Liberals already have enough problems on their plate to risk raising the controversial idea of decriminalization.

Meanwhile, most provinces, including B.C., haven’t invested enough in the infrastructure to put a Portugal-style model in place.

This week, Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy agreed that there are enormous gaps in B.C.’s fragmented system.

When the New Democrats were elected less than three years ago, she said the drug treatment system had been neglected for so long that it was not able to cope with regular tasks, let alone a public health emergency.

The government is taking steps to fix that. But whether it’s moving fast enough is a conversation that both the coroner and chief medical health officer are pushing British Columbians to have because the lives of many loved ones depend on it.

dbramham@postmedia.com

Twitter: @bramham_daphne

18Feb

Most parents believe kids will leave Metro Vancouver due to cost: poll

by admin


More and more B.C. parents believe their children will have to leave Metro Vancouver one day due to the high cost of living.


Getty Images

More and more B.C. parents believe their children will have to leave Metro Vancouver one day due to the high cost of living.

According to a new Research Co. poll, 66 per cent of B.C. parents who participated in the survey said they expected their child or children would have to move away in the future due to the financial constraints of living in Metro Vancouver. That percentage is up 24 points to a similar poll conducted in 2019.

The newly released poll also found that the majority of B.C. parents struggle with stress due to work and finances, with 58 per cent of respondents saying they experienced work-related stress “frequently” or “occasionally” and 57 per cent saying they experienced finance-related stress “frequently” or “occasionally.”

Still half of parents (51 per cent) say they deal with housing-related stress, while 40 per cent say it is “moderately difficult” or “very difficult” to make ends meet.

Financial stress appears to affect more parents in Northern B.C., with 60 per cent saying they have a hard time getting by financially. Meanwhile, 45 per cent on Vancouver Island, 40 per cent in the Fraser Valley, 39 per cent in Metro Vancouver and 28 per cent in Southern B.C. put themselves in that same category.

The survey also found that three-in-five parents say it is “very difficult” or “moderately difficult” to put away savings, while two-in-five parents struggle with paying for day-to-day expenses (44 per cent), paying for childcare (42 per cent) and paying for transportation (39 per cent).

The survey was conducted online from Feb. 4 to 7, 2020 among a representative group of 623 B.C. parents between the ages of 0 to 18 years. The margin of error is +/-3.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

14Feb

Conversations That Matter: Love avoidance

by admin

13Feb

Virtual walk-in clinics increase access to doctors in rural B.C. communities

by admin


Fort St. John resident Candace Marynuik saw a doctor through the Babylon app by Telus Health.


Submitted photo / PNG

For weeks, Candace Marynuik hadn’t felt like herself.

She might have told a doctor about her “weird symptoms,” but since moving to Fort St. John in 2017 she had been forced to rely on the local walk-in clinic, lining up in sub-zero weather before sunrise to be turned away when every space was filled.

“I hadn’t seen a doctor in over two years,” she said. “Something didn’t feel right, but I didn’t know what to do about it.”

In September, a friend suggested an app she had used to get a prescription refilled.

Within hours, Marynuik had a virtual appointment with a B.C. doctor, and within a week she had done blood tests and an X-ray. She even had a suspected diagnosis — multiple sclerosis. She would need an MRI and a visit to the University of B.C.’s MS clinic in Vancouver to confirm the diagnosis, but doctors she had never met in person connected her with the right specialists.

“I don’t know how long I would have waited (to go to the hospital in Fort St. John),” she said. “By the time I got on the plane to Vancouver, my brain was in a fog.”


Fort St. John resident Candace Marynuik saw a doctor through the Babylon app by Telus Health.

Submitted photo /

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The Babylon app by Telus Health was launched in B.C. in March, at that time the only province in Canada with a billing code to pay doctors for virtual visits.

While Telus was reluctant to provide Postmedia News with information on the number of British Columbians who have used the free app so far, the telecommunications company said “tens of thousands” of people have downloaded Babylon and completed consultations. January saw the highest downloads to date, with a 30 per cent increase over December.

“The growth has been significant,” said Juggy Sihota, vice-president of Telus Consumer Health. “Some of the stories people have told us bring tears to my eyes. It’s been used by a 97-year-old who had trouble seeing a doctor because of mobility issues, someone who said the app saved their family’s Christmas (and) people in rural areas who have to drive hours to see a doctor.”

Sihota said the number of doctors registered with the app is growing, with many drawn to the system by the work-life balance it provides. Some work part-time in clinics or their own practices and take calls through Babylon on the side. Like a physical walk-in clinic, the doctors bill MSP for the consultations.

Sihota said “connected care” is at the heart of the Babylon app. While patients receive access to the doctor’s written notes, they can also play back a video of their consultation. The virtual clinic also helps them arrange the necessary tests and followup appointments.

In a short survey conducted for Telus after each appointment, 92 per cent of respondents said their main request was resolved by the end of their consultation. Asked to rate the service, they gave it an average 4.9 out of five stars, a number that hasn’t dropped since March.

The top conditions treated by doctors through the app include mental health, sexual health, skin disorders and respiratory issues. So far, more women have used it than men.

“We should all have equal access to health care,” said Sihota. “We believe technology can make our health-care system better at less cost.”


The Babylon app by Telus Health connects B.C. residents with doctors.

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Babylon isn’t the only example of virtual health care in B.C.

The primary health-care strategy announced by the provincial government in 2018 included an emphasis on technology solutions. At a news conference, Health Minister Adrian Dix said technology would be used to bring health care closer to home for those in rural and remote areas through the use of telehealth services and new digital home-health monitoring.

B.C. Children’s Hospital uses technology to link specialists to doctors and patients throughout the province through 19 telehealth centres, conducting about 140 virtual appointments per month. Specialists also provide advice to adult patients through a program called Rapid Access to Consultative Expertise.

The government paid nearly $3 million for about 43,000 video-conference visits to doctors in 2015-16. The number of virtual visits rose to over one million in 2016-17.

Telus Health has recently made a push into the health-care field, buying a chain of elite medical clinics and reportedly spending over $2 billion on a variety of digital-health tools.

Some doctors have questioned whether virtual health care erodes quality of care by eliminating long-term doctor patient relationships in favour of episodic care, while also making it more attractive for doctors to work for a virtual clinic, making it even harder to see a doctor in person.

Related

—With files from Postmedia News

gluymes@postmedia.com

twitter.com/glendaluymes

12Feb

Daphne Bramham: Lack of addictions treatment for youth needs urgent fix

by admin

As B.C. heads into the fifth year of a public health emergency due to the high number of opioid overdose deaths, Vancouver Island still doesn’t have a single residential-treatment for youth. Provincewide, the number of youth beds and services lag demand.

For youth who do get one of those precious treatment beds, their transition back to community-based services is badly planned and poorly managed.

Had all of that been in place, 16-year-old Elliot Cleveland Eurchuk might have survived his addiction rather than being counted among the 4,850 British Columbians to have died between January 2016 and Oct. 31, 2019.

But the teen’s legacy could be — should be — that Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan making addictions treatment as much of a priority as harm reduction.

Recommendations from the coroner’s inquest into Eurchuk’s 2018 death released on Monday provide some direction: More acute-care beds for youths including a residential treatment centre in Victoria; more and better access to addictions services; and resources for early detection of mental-health and substance-use disorders among youth.

For more, the government ought to dig out its copies of the 2018 report from the B.C. Centre on Substance Use that recommended a “full, evidence-based continuum of care including building an effective and coordinated addiction treatment and recovery system that has traditionally been lacking.”

That report also singled out the need for youth-specific services and treatment including residential care. It also recommended “recovery high schools” where not only are drugs and alcohol are strictly prohibited, treatment and services are part of the curriculum.

Men aged 19 to 59 make up the overwhelming majority of the people who have died of opioid overdoses. But, an average of 18 youths have died in each of the past four years.

The recommendations aren’t only aimed at preventing youth from dying. They’re aimed at providing treatment to prevent their addictions from becoming entrenched.

In addition to the recommendations, the coroner’s report provides a glimpse of the other opioid crisis far away from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Related

Eurchuk knew about harm reduction services, but he didn’t get his drugs tested, didn’t go to safe injection sites, didn’t seek treatment or replacement therapies such as methadone or Suboxone.

He’d started using cannabis in November 2015 when he was 13. After injuring his shoulder wrestling a year later, he began self-medicating, buying hydromorphone from a classmate at Oak Bay High School.

In December 2016, he broke his jaw playing soccer and, after surgery, was prescribed hydromorphone for the pain. Two months later, he had the first of two surgeries on his shoulder and was prescribed another opioid, Tramacet, for the pain.

After reinjuring his shoulder that fall, Eurchuk was given another prescription for Tramacet. He was also suspended from school, accused of selling drugs to classmates.

After a second shoulder operation that October, Eurchuk got a five-day prescription for Oxycodone, followed up by a prescription for Tramacet.

In the final months of his life, Eurchuk was routinely using opioids to the point that when he was hospitalized in early 2018 for a serious infection, he got a day pass and got fentanyl and cocaine while he was out. He went into cardiac arrest in the hospital on his return.

He was home briefly in February before being readmitted under the Mental Health Act. Discharged after a week, Eurchuk was in the emergency room of Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital in March because of decreased consciousness and released after a few hours.

On his final day, Eurchuk bought a two-day supply from a street dealer, used with a friend early in the evening and was heavily intoxicated by the time they parted ways. As the evening wore on, people who saw him described him as everything from fine to agitated to disoriented. He was last seen at midnight.

The teen died on the morning of April 10 at home from a heart attack, fluid in the lungs and aspiration caused by “mixed intoxication” from fentanyl, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

Attempts to revive him with naloxone, chest compressions, suction and a defibrillator failed.

While the government will provide a written response to the coroner’s recommendations in the coming weeks, last summer it committed $2.4 million over three years to addictions and mental health programs.

It has opened four youth detox beds in Victoria. There are eight Foundry Centres across the province providing comprehensive supports with three more being developed.  And, this spring, a 20-bed treatment facility in Chilliwack is scheduled to open.

There is no guarantee that better acute-care treatment, earlier interventions and more comprehensive community services will save the lives of every addicted youth or that they would have saved Eurchuk.

Addiction is, after all, a chronic, relapsing condition.

Elliot Eurchuk was just a kid and there are others like him. They deserve the best chance possible to grow up to be healthy adults.

dbramham@postmedia.com

Twitter: @bramham_daphne

7Feb

Town Talk: Million-dollar gala benefits the Canucks Autism Network

by admin


Jill Killeen and Clara Aquilini chaired the Reveal gala in Rogers Arena that reportedly raised $1,022,000 to benefit the Canucks Autism Network founded by Clara and husband Paolo of the team-and-arena-owning family.


Malcolm Parry / PNG

HOME ICE: Reveal gala co-chairs Clara Aquilini and Jill Killeen virtually skated into Rogers Arena recently and netted $1,022,000 for the Canucks Autism Network. “We both play offence,” fundraiser Killeen cracked during a VIP reception in the Vancouver Canucks’ dressing room. Singer-comedian Lady Rizo and local Underground Circus performers entertained 600 attendees.


Artist Athena Bax spent pocket change creating her ensemble then donated a painting that raised $30,000 at a Canucks Autism Network’s gala-auction.

Malcolm Parry /

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Among them was city-based artist Athena Bax, who often concocts glamorous outfits from less than some spend on hairspray. For Reveal, she crafted a top hat from scrap materials, then glued glittering gewgaws to a $7.50 Value Village jacket she ripped apart and stitched to her dress. Countering such fiscal probity, Bax also donated a floral painting titled Love is a Garden that aided the network’s youngsters by fetching $30,000 at auction.


Peter and Shahram Malek’s Millennium Development Corp restored Hastings-at-Carrall’s 107-year-old Merchant Bank Building to be better than new.

Malcolm Parry /

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MERCHANT OF GASTOWN: Eighty-nine years have passed since steam locomotives hauled passenger and freight cars across the Hastings-at-Carrall intersection. Erected there in 1913, the Merchant Bank Building had its facade set back obliquely so trains could pass. The old railway right-of-way is now a triangular public space called Pioneer Place or, more often, Pigeon Park. Following years of decline, the neoclassical Merchant Bank building itself looks much as it did new, not that multicoloured nighttime floodlighting was common in 1913. Inside, following renovation by Peter Malek and brother Shahram Malekyazdi’s Millennium Development Corp., it has become technically current while retaining some marble-and-terrazzo flooring, moulded ceilings, iron staircase balustrades (there is a new elevator) and sash windows that actually open, albeit by the few centimetres now mandated. City hall wouldn’t renew the original design’s provision for four additional four storeys, but it did relent as regards a steel-and-concrete replacement for the mostly wood-framed top floor. Meanwhile, Millennium has begun a 37-rental-unit building alongside that retains the brick fascia of an 1880s structure. Oddly, the Merchant Bank building had a same-era predecessor that lasted barely 20 years. With several restaurant-bars nearby, another may occupy the street-level and lower floors. Colliers International realtors might welcome a tech firm leasing all 14,172 square feet. The peerless address — One West Hastings — would likely be an inducement.


Co-chairs Pei Huang and Judy Leung toasted a $3-million gala to end VGH and UBC Hospital Foundation’s $60-million Future of Surgery campaign.

Malcolm Parry /

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SURGING FOR SURGERY: Pei Huang and Judy Leung co-chaired the Chinese Canadian community’s sixth annual Time to Shine gala that reportedly raised $3 million. That sum, including a $1-million donation from William Lin and An-Nien Lu, helped the VGH and UBC Hospital Foundation close its $60-million Future of Surgery campaign, although a similar major fundraising will doubtless follow.


Wearing a Vimo Wedding gown to the VHG and UBC Hospital Foundation gala, Angela Chapman admired Beijing designer Guo Pei’s confections.

Malcolm Parry /

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The happy occasion saw foundation president-CEO Angela Chapman wear a timely, shiny gown from Vancouver’s Vimo Wedding boutique. Other attendees bid on barely-there custom dresses by Beijing designer Guo Pei. Not that any wearer would feel chilled after sampling the gala’s complimentary Lion Way cocktails: brandy, rum, mescal, amaretto, red wine and five spices.


After many developments in Vancouver. Toronto, Seattle, Tokyo, etc., Westbank Projects Corp. founder Ian Gillespie is readying for a $10-billion one in Silicon Valley.

Malcolm Parry /

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EVEN-BIGGER DEAL: A bullet wound to 10-year-old Ian Gillespie’s head put paid to his piano studies but didn’t impede his property-development career. Now aged 58, and often partnered by Peterson Group principal Ben Yeung, Westbank Projects Corp. founder Gillespie has completed many major developments in Vancouver and Toronto. Six are proceeding in Seattle and others in Tokyo. While checking on Westbank CFO Judy Leung’s co-chairing of the Time to Shine gala, Gillespie spoke about a bigger-still project. That’s a $10-billion, five-million-square-foot development of primarily office space on six sites in San Jose, California. With Silicon Valley giants Apple and Google nearby, the energy-net-zero scheme will approximate “half the area of downtown Vancouver,” Gillespie said. It’s as well that that bullet didn’t penetrate deeper.

PARRYNOIA: Rolls-Royce’s claim that its $500,000 Black Badge Cullinan model “delivers a theatrical dreamscape within the cabin of the motor car” may not imply that its drivers tend to fall asleep.


At a joint national-day event, New Zealand consul general Matt Ritchie congratulated honorary consul Kevin Lamb on induction to the Order of Australia.

Malcolm Parry /

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DOWN-UNDER ORDER: Australia’s 23-year honorary consul, Kevin Lamb, likely sensed the irony of rainfall when he and New Zealand’s five-month consul general, Matt Ritchie, jointly celebrated their national days. Getting to the reception obliged them and guests to slosh through cascades that caused much flooding and cut road access to Hemlock Valley skiers and residents. For want of rain that day, out-of-control bushfires threatened widespread evacuation of Australia’s capital. Canberra itself earlier conferred the Order of Australia on Edmonton-born Lamb for “outstanding achievement and service.” Following his posting to Kuala Lumpur, trade specialist Ritchie is vigorously seeking New Zealand-Canada benefits from the two-year-old Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.


Seen with spirituality promoter Deepak Chopra, Dianne Watts had much to meditate on when her front-running B.C. Liberal party leadership bid fizzled.

Malcolm Parry /

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LIB AND LET LIB: One wonders whether B.C. Liberal Liberals would need to “bid for a political comeback” (Vaughn Palmer, Sun, Feb. 4) or practice lifeboat survival had Dianne Watts been elected leader Feb. 3, 2018. The former Surrey mayor and Tory MP led through four ballots until the lack of Liberal-caucus support, horse-trading among ballot losers and non-voting by her own supporters gave Andrew Wilkinson the win.

DOWN PARRYSCOPE: The U.S. might lose it world’s-highest-imprisonment ranking if ordinary citizens faced trials comparable to their president’s.

malcolmparry@shaw.ca
604-929-8456

17Jan

Town Talk: Two hospital fundraisers take aim at $10 million

by admin


Time to Shine gala co-chairs Pei Huang and Judy Leung tasted the gyoza dish that will be modified by chef John Carlo Felicella and his team for February’s IKA Culinary Olympics in Stuttgart, Germany.


Malcolm Parry / PNG

CONNECTIONS: The VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation made quite a to-do of Willie Li’s Lion Way Properties becoming the sixth annual Time To Shine gala’s presenting sponsor (Sun, Jan. 20). Former gala chair Cecilia Tse, the Colliers International senior VP-Asia Pacific, staged a kickoff for that Feb. 1 fundraiser in her company’s downtown offices.


VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation president/CEO Angela Chapman welcomed presenting sponsor Willie Li to a Time to Shine gala launch event.

Malcolm Parry /

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Colliers is the sales-marketing agent for hitherto-residential-developer Lion Way’s first commercial project, the 10-floor Landmark at Richmond City Centre. Meanwhile, the gala’s third-time co-chair, foundation board member Judy Leung, is the CFO of another development firm, Westbank Corp. At the foundation’s 2018 gala, Westbank principal Ian Gillespie donated $1.5 million toward the $4,343,552 reportedly raised. Leung hopes that this year’s event will raise $5 million to conclude the foundation’s $60-million Future of Surgery campaign.


For Children We Care co-chair Jane Young will see father Ben Yeung’s Peterson Group present the B.C. Children’s Hospital benefit for the fourth time.

Malcolm Parry /

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Gillespie partnered on several projects (including Georgia Street’s 62-floor Shangri-La) with Peterson Group executive chair/CEO Ben Yeung, who is a former VGH & UBC Foundation board member. Peterson will be the fourth-time presenting sponsor March 7 when Yeung’s differently named daughter, Jane Young, co-chairs B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation’s 25th-annual For Children We Care gala. That Chinese-community event likely has a $5-million target, too. Supporters of both galas doubtless endorse Willie Li’s assertion to Sun reporter Nick Eagland: “That is the basic culture in Canada — give back.”


Co-curators Giulio Recchioni and Tom Charity flanked sponsoring Consul General Fabio Messineo at the Italian Film Festival’s opening reception.

Malcolm Parry /

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DOLCE E GIALLI: Founding co-curators Tom Charity and Giulio Recchioni kicked off the seventh annual Italian Film Fest in the Vancity Theatre recently. The Italian Cultural Centre, the Vancouver International Film Festival and the Consulate General of Italy co-presented the weeklong program. Five-month Consul General Fabio Messineo attended the opening event. He returned later to introduce and discuss director Marco Bellocchio’s Il Traditore (The Traitor) that was shot in his home island, Sicily. Audiences appreciate the festival’s mix of new and old films, said Charity. The old included two screenings of La Dolce Vita by the late Federico Fellini who would be 100 on Jan. 20. Recchioni welcomed the festival’s new three-film component, Gialli (Yellow), “that is the Italian version of Noir with more sex,” he said. First-nighters thanked Museum of Vancouver CEO Mauro Vescera, who founded the festival when he was the cultural centre’s executive director.


With his 15th album, Day By Day, imminent, jazz saxophonist Cory Weeds joined keyboardist Sharon Minemoto to entertain Italian Film Festival guests.

Malcolm Parry /

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PRO’S CONN: As usual, feted city jazzer Cory Weeds entertained Italian Film Festival first-night guests, backed by keyboardist Sharon Minemoto. Weeds’ much-vaunted Conn10M tenor sax looked and sounded as fresh as when new almost 80 years ago. Called the Naked Lady because of an engraving on its bell, the Indiana-made sax would be ideal to accompany a festival screening of Roberto Roberti’s 1922 silent film, La Donna Nuda.


Late Haida carver, goldsmith and writer-broadcaster Bill Reid, who would have been 100 on Jan. 12 will spur many commemorative events this year.

Malcolm Parry /

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BETTER BY ALF: Like Federico Fellini, Victoria-born Haida artist Bill Reid would have been 100 this month. The Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art will stage year-long commemorative events. Master carver, goldsmith and writer-broadcaster Reid was also a dry humorist. At a retirement ceremony for Canada’s first Indigenous lawyer-judge, Alf Scow, Reid presented an artwork depicting his own wolf clan’s symbology. “I created this drawing at great expense and long labour,” he said. “I began it about 3:30 this afternoon.”


Here with wife Joan, late lawyer-judge Alf Scow jokingly apologized to brother Rupert for breaking his promise “to put all the white men in jail.”

Malcolm Parry /

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Scow topped that by smilingly telling his largely non-Indigenous well-wishers: “I’ve apologized to my brother Rupert for not keeping a promise to put all the white men in jail.”


Brewmaster Kerry Dixon and Tap and Barrel founder/CEO Daniel Frankel brandished B.C. Beer Awards trophies for Brewhall beverages they canned.

Malcolm Parry /

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CAN IT: Brewhall Beer Co. owner Daniel Frankel and brewmaster Kerry Dyson did just that after their Köl Story Bro Kölsch won the 2019 B.C. Beer Awards’ Pale German Beer category and Azedo Tropical Fruit Sour took the People’s Choice Award. Those beverages and others, including customer-favourite Neon Lights Pale Ale, went into tins for the first time recently at the 1918-built Second-off-Quebec facility. That once-derelict building was dismantled, renovated and reopened in 2014 as Steel Toad Brewing. Frankel acquired it in 2017. With an outlet of his Tap and Barrel chain two blocks away, he needed another name — ergo Brewhall — for the pub-restaurant and what he calls “an experimental, not a production brewery.” Born like Kiss bassist-singer Gene Simmons in Haifa, Israel, guitarist Frankel also played in a heavy-metal band, The Sabras. Maybe he’ll have Dyson concoct a version of Israel’s popular Dancing Camel beer that, once you’re filled, may need no top-up for 10 days.


Motorists facing ICBC’s voracity may recall responsible minister Pat McGeer’s advice to those unable to pay 1976’s tripling rates: “Sell your car.” Photo for the Mac Parry Town Talk column of Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. Malcolm Parry/Special to the Sun [PNG Merlin Archive]

Malcolm Parry /

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DEJA WOE: Beset by today’s ICBC problems, Attorney General David Eby might endorse education-science-technology minister Pat McGeer’s 1976-new-year cheeriness.  Money-losing ICBC’s under-$300 basic rate would rise by 300 per cent, McGeer announced then. Those who couldn’t pay should simply sell their cars. Motorists countered with: “Stick it in your ear, McGeer.” They might have said, “you know where, Rafe Mair,” had that then-consumer services minister handled ICBC.

DOWN PARRYSCOPE: Although “security concerns” kept North Saanich part-timers Harry and Meghan from sampling nearby Deep Cove Chalet’s noisette of lamb a l’Indienne and Laurent Perrier Rosé Champagne, the democratizing duo might slip in for turkey wings, poutine and beer at almost-as-handy Chuck’s Burger Bar.

malcolmparry@shaw.ca
604-929-8456

11Jan

Campaign for free prescription contraception ramps up ahead of B.C. budget

by admin


Holding an IUD birth control copper coil device in hand, used for contraception


flocu / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Free prescription contraception is a no-brainer, according to groups advocating its inclusion in February’s provincial budget.

A cost-benefit analysis conducted by Options for Sexual Health in 2010 estimates the B.C. government could save $95 million a year if it paid for universal access to prescription contraception.

It would also promote equality, giving young people and those with low incomes the same choices as those who are able to pay for their preferred method of contraception.

“Not all contraception works for everyone,” said Dr. Teale Phelps Bondaroff, committee chair and co-founder of the AccessBC campaign. “Money shouldn’t be a factor in deciding on the best option.”

The most effective contraception is often the most expensive up front: An intrauterine device, or IUD, can cost between $75 and $380, while oral contraceptive pills can cost $20 a month, and hormone injections can cost as much as $180 a year.

But that’s a small amount compared to an unplanned pregnancy, which can have a “huge ripple effect” on a woman’s life, particularly if she is already struggling to get by, said Patti MacAhonic, executive director of the Ann Davis Transition Society in Chilliwack.

“I think it’s a gender equity issue. Contraception costs usually fall on women, and if they become pregnant that often falls on them as well.”

MacAhonic said providing free prescription contraception would also reduce some of the stigma that still exists around birth control. School-age girls trying to get a prescription without their parents’ knowledge may be prevented by a lack of money.

In May, the Canadian Paediatric Society released a position statement identifying cost as a “significant barrier” to using contraception for youth.

“Many must pay out-of-pocket because they have no pharmaceutical insurance, their insurance does not cover the contraceptives they desire, or they wish to obtain contraceptives without their parents’ knowledge,” said the statement.

The society recommended all youth should have confidential access to contraception at no cost until age 25.

But B.C. advocates want the government to go further.

AccessBC pointed to several European countries that subsidize universal access to contraception in some way, including the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany. Many programs are revenue-neutral when the cost of an unintended pregnancy is considered.

In 2015, a study in the Canadian Association Medical Journal estimated the cost of universal contraception in Canada would be $157 million, but the savings, in the form of the direct medical costs of unintended pregnancy, would be $320 million.

Options for Sexual Health executive director Michelle Fortin said that while the birth control pill remains relatively cheap, women might choose another method if the cost was the same.

“If you’re a student you may have to choose between a month of food or an IUD,” she said. “Finances continue to be a barrier.”

Fortin said a petition circulated at Options clinics across the province will be presented to the health minister in advance of the budget.

AccessBC is also urging people to write to their MLAs before February.

“We’re feeling optimistic. We have a lot of momentum,” said Phelps Bondaroff, noting the select standing committee on finance and government services recommended the government explore the issue.

“If it makes the budget, it will do great things. … It’s a win-win, a no-brainer.”

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26Dec

Hiking for healing: UFV researcher finds nature helps anxiety among cancer survivors

by admin

After a few minutes on the hiking trail, Dr. Duna Goswami felt her stress lessen.

“It was like I was in a green tunnel. I could smell the fresh air. I could hear the water dripping from the trees,” she said.

The Abbotsford physician was one of nine cancer survivors who participated in a program designed by a University of the Fraser Valley kinesiology professor to see if nature has the ability to reduce anxiety levels.

Over eight weeks in September and October, the group met twice a week to hike in the Cultus Lake area.

Early results, based on interviews with the participants, seem to prove the oft-touted notion that nature really does soothe the soul.

“A number of them said it helped them realize how strong they were,” said lead researcher Dr. Iris Lesser. “When asked to rank their anxiety before and after the hike, we saw a drop in stress.”

There are likely several causes for that, not least of which is the experience of being in nature itself.

Lesser and her associates purposefully selected hikes that were not too difficult, but still lush and green.

“We asked participants if they thought it would be the same if they were doing a walk in the city, and they thought it wouldn’t be,” she said.

For Goswami, who finished treatments for breast cancer about a year ago, the setting made her feel peaceful.

“I might have gone hiking in the summer before, but not in the fall. It changed my view. I realized I could get outside even in the rain,” she said.

Goswami also reported several other benefits that proved common among participants. Hiking with a group of fellow cancer survivors provided support.

“Having cancer is isolating,” she said. “Even though you’re surrounded by people who want to help, it is nice to be with those who know what it is like, who understand.”

The physical exercise also brought benefits. During her treatment, which included chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, the physician felt ill and was unable to be active. For almost a year after, she still felt tired.

“I was working, but I was very tired,” she said.

Lesser said the benefits of exercise for stroke and cardiac patients are well known, but using exercise in cancer treatment is still a new field.

“We knew going in there might be several different factors at work in our results,” she said. “In an effort to untangle them, we tried to ask questions that were specific to each component.”

It appears clear that participants benefited from being in nature, as well as the social support and physical activity that hiking entailed.

The researcher was encouraged in her study by local oncologists who identified a gap in survivor care.

“They felt like patients should be better supported after treatment, but they didn’t have the time to help them navigate that part,” she said.

Lesser would eventually like to see a program for cancer survivors in the model of a support group that incorporates nature and physical activity.

In the meantime, she hopes to run another session in the spring to provide her with more data. The hikes will take place in the Chilliwack area. People can email iris.lesser@ufv.ca for more information.

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