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Category "Health"

17Nov

Ian Mulgrew: Final arguments, finally, in Big Brother medicare case

by admin

The plaintiffs call it the medical equivalent of Orwell’s Big Lie: that B.C. has the best health care system in the world and it’s egalitarian.

Indeed, the evidence shows operating rooms sit empty while surgeons twiddle their thumbs and waits for surgery and diagnostic services grow to historic lengths and a slew of exempted patients jump the queues.

The case took a decade to get to court and it’s dragged on for three years, but B.C.’s marathon medicare trial lurches back to life Monday after a hiatus, with lawyers making final submissions.

The plaintiffs — private clinics and a handful of patients — claim draconian provisions in the B.C. Medicare Protection Act should be struck down because they prevent people from paying for private health care to avoid waits for publicly funded care that endanger their health, or buying insurance to cover such care.

They argue the B.C. law violates sections 7 and 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and are not saved by Section 1, which allows “reasonable” limitations on freedoms.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice John Steeves must decide whether they’re right.

There is a library of documents and data entered as evidence but the case rests on a simple argument — though one plaintiff’s lawyer, Peter Gall, takes more than 500 pages to summarize it.

The constitutional challenge does not argue the province caused any harm, but rather that Victoria is preventing individuals from avoiding or alleviating the social, interpersonal and psychological harms of waiting for treatment.

The case was not about dismantling medicare.

Until the mid-1980s, the government funded all surgeries and did not restrict operating times, so effectively there were no lineups.

But ballooning health costs led to the rationing of services and restrictions on surgery that produced long waits that were already a crisis in the 1990s. The court heard some surgeons have so little operating room time they struggle to do enough surgeries to maintain their competence levels.

Dr. Brian Day, the face of the litigation, testified that health authorities and provincial Crown corporations, such as B.C. Hydro, paid for private surgeries for their employees, as have Canada Post and unions including those for nurses, plumbers, postal workers and boiler workers. The Cambie Clinic he helped found in 1996 has also provided private surgeries and services for judges and senators.

The Supreme Court of Canada has wrestled with the issues before, in a Quebec case known as Chaoulli. But t only the prohibition on private insurance, not the ban, as in B.C., on doctors practising in both the private and public sphere.

The majority struck down Quebec’s laws, so private insurance is allowed in Quebec for the three surgeries that had the longest waits. The sky did not fall. Medicare endures in la Belle Province.

For more than 20 years, private diagnostic and surgical services have been available in B.C., performed by specialists who are also enrolled in the public system, and the sky has not fallen either.

Despite being aware that private clinics were thumbing their noses at the law, the government did nothing until recently.

Although Chaoulli directly addressed the insurance issue, three other cases are at the heart of B.C. case — known as Bedford, PHS Community Services and Carter.

They focused on government actions that did not directly cause harm, but prevented people from helping themselves.

In Bedford, Criminal Code provisions against keeping a bawdy-house and living on the avails of prostitution prevented sex workers from taking steps to protect themselves from violent pimps, johns and other predators, such as by hiring security guards or ‘screening’ potential clients.

The situation in Carter was analogous — the impugned law prevented people from ending debilitating suffering through physician-assisted suicide.

Similarly, in PHS Community Services, drug abuse and addiction caused harms but the law prevented individuals from alleviating them.

All three were rooted in the precedent set in the high bench’s decision in Morgentaler, which struck down restrictions on abortions because they violated the security of the person.

In the medicare case, the same principle is at stake, the plaintiffs say — the law prevents people from taking steps to address their own health needs and avoid additional harm caused by waiting for treatment.

They maintain the government has taken a wrong turn — gone from ensuring that everyone has timely access to health care to deliberately erecting barriers to prevent people from obtaining access to care.

Provincial data from March 31 submitted in court confirmed none of the health authorities even came close to meeting the target of testing 85 per cent of patients needing colonoscopies within the maximum acceptable wait time.

Thousands of patients suffer and may have their chances at recovery compromised as a result of the delay for a critical diagnostic procedure — and the number is increasing every year.

The trial heard “non-acute” plastic surgery cases — vital procedures such as breast reconstruction following a mastectomy, facial reconstruction after facial palsy and mastectomies for those with a high likelihood of developing cancer — are often delayed.

There was evidence patients are enduring lengthy and harmful waits beyond the maximum acceptable waiting times for cataract surgery.

Victoria has outsourced many publicly funded cataract surgeries for years to private clinics in order to provide more timely care. Nonetheless, queues persist due to increasing demand.

Despite the focus on hip and knee surgeries, there was evidence B.C. has never come close to meeting the federal benchmark for replacement surgeries or the maximum acceptable waiting times for the more urgent patients.

The evidence showed adult and child patients waited well beyond the maximum acceptable time for a variety of spinal surgeries, with continuing pain and disability and, in some cases, substantial risk of permanent damage.

Waiting times for diagnostic imaging in British Columbia, such as MRI and CT scans, were said to be among the longest in Canada and much longer than in other OECD countries: Only 46 per cent were receiving their MRIs within the maximum acceptable waiting times.

Yet the newly proclaimed amendments to the B.C. Medicare Protection Act remove the option to get private MRI or CT scans.

The indictment went on and on. The system provides a reasonable level of care for many, especially emergency and acute care, but it fails many others.

There is the capacity to perform additional surgeries, but the government won’t or can’t pay for them.

In essence, the court is being asked to stop the government from denying you the right to pay for your own better health or buy private insurance to do the same.

Final submissions are expected to run into next month and Steeves to deliberate into next year.

imulgrew@postmedia.com

twitter.com/ianmulgrew

8Nov

Town Talk: Galas support hospitals and cancer and juvenile diabetes research

by admin


Wearing a rose-covered gown and headdress beside a rose-stuffed $408,993 Lamborghini Huracan Eco Spyder, Isabella McKinnon greeted South Asian community guests at a $742,495 B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation benefit.


Malcolm Parry / PNG

THREE GALA NIGHT: It started at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver when  Immigrant Employment Council of B.C. CEO Patrick MacKenzie chaired The B.C. Cancer Foundation’s Inspiration gala. With the theme Genomics: The Future of Cancer, the 15th annual event reportedly raised $3 million. As often in such roles, MacKenzie was motivated by a past cancer that carried away his wife Sarah. Dr. Janessa Laskin, the clinical head of B.C. Cancer’s genomics group, looks to her specialty curtailing such losses. “Cancer is so complicated, she said. “Genomics will change how cancer medicine is practised. It will change everything for patients, families, clinicians and researchers.”


B.C. Cancer genomics group clinical head Janessa Laskin and Inspiration gala chair Patrick MacKenzie saw the 15th annual event raise a reported $3 million.

Malcolm Parry /

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The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Rockin’ For Research gala’s new chair, Stephanie Orr, greeted 12-time predecessor Mary Jane Devine.

Malcolm Parry /

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ROCK ON: Kitty-corner at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, another first-time-chair, Stephanie Orr, fronted the 20th annual Rockin’ For Research gala. It reportedly raised $965,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. One attendee donated $1 million separately. Orr’s personal connection with diabetes derives from having two of her three children with that ailment. The event was founded by Loverboy guitarist Paul Dean and wife Denise on behalf of their then-four-year-old son Jake. Orr thanked guests for helping diabetic youngsters “get closer to a world without insulin injections, finger pokes, low blood sugars, high blood sugars, carb counting and constant fear of life-threatening consequences.”


Accompanied by counsellor-wife Careena, Manjot Hallen chaired the 11th annual Night of Miracles benefit for the B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation.

Malcolm Parry /

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COMING UP ROSES: Down at the Marriott Pinnacle Hotel, yet another first-time chair, personal injury lawyer Manjot Hallen, fronted the South Asian Community’s 11th annual Night of Miracles gala. He and vice-chair Seema Lai saw the event reportedly add $742,495 to the $5.4 million previously raised for B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation. That rosy result was reflected at the hotel’s entrance by a $408,993 Lamborghini Huracan Evo Spyder from Asgar Virji’s Weissach dealership that was literally stuffed with white and red roses. More blooms adorned greeter Isabella McKinnon, who is more accustomed to hops-and-barley fragrances at The Pint pub where she bartends. Foundation president-CEO Teri Nicholas thanked gala-goers for helping the hospital “transform care for children with presently incurable Type 1 diabetes.”


Wearing condottiere garb, Academie Duello owner Devon Boorman welcomed Halloween-made-up Tamara Lowey to his new axe-throwing program.

Malcolm Parry /

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BULL’S-EYE: Some 150 years ago, large axes felled old-growth timber at what is now downtown Hastings Street. Smaller versions now thud into targets at Devon Boorman’s Academie Duello there. Along with its swordplay, archery, dance and mounted-knight programs, the medieval-themed martial-arts organization has teamed with the Axewood concern to offer $45 chopper-chucking sessions — with no trees harmed.


TV anchor Sophie Lui’s friend Philip Meyer said that the Rosewood Sand Hill hotel he manages has set occupancy record as California fires rage.

Malcolm Parry /

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ILL WIND: The old saying aside, California’s wildfire-fanning winds did blow some good. That was to Menlo Park’s Rosewood Sand Hill hotel where former Vancouver hotelier Philip Myer is managing director. While visiting family and friend Sophie Lui here, he said, “We just had our best October ever,” meaning that fire-fleeing guests had booked all the ritzy joint’s rooms.


Eastside Culture Crawl head Esther Rausenberg’s Displacement event had photo-artist Sally Buck display her works in the old-style “flasher” manner.

Malcolm Parry /

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LOST SPACE RACE: Eastside Culture Crawl executive director Esther Rausenberg is pleased that 500 artists, craftspeople and designers will open their studios for the 23rd running Nov. 14-17. She’s dismayed, though, that a decline of affordable production spaces — often former industrial premises — is depriving artists of places to work. Seventy-five such artists are participating in the multi-venue Displacement exhibition that Rausenberg launched recently. “No artists, no city culture,” she said, hoping that community leaders, elected officials and the like will prevent that baleful outcome.


Carol Mayer toasted late husband Ken when an exhibition and auction of his photographs raised funds for Capilano University music scholarships.

Malcolm Parry /

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GONE TOO SOON: Ken Mayer’s photo-artworks were exhibited and auctioned recently at his studio in the 1000 Parker building where scores of other artists and artisans practice. Mayer, who died in September soon after a cancer diagnosis, directed that all auction proceeds would fund Capilano University music scholarships. Especially popular were his photographs of France and others inspired by 17th-century Dutch paintings that, though little demanded 20 years ago, “flew off the wall,” said wife Carol.


Nancy Greene Raine, Marielle Thompson and other Olympic gold medalists celebrated Canadian ski racing’s centenary at the Peak to Peak dinner.

Malcolm Parry /

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PEAK PERFORMERS Olympics and Paralympics gold medallists Molly Jepson, Kathy Kreiner, Ashleigh McIvor, Marielle Thompson and Nancy Greene Raine joined other top skiers, coaches and guests at Blue Water Café recently. The B.C. Alpine organization’s 14th annual Peak to Peak dinner-auction there celebrated 100 years of Canadian ski racing and helped fund national-level programs. Sun Peaks skiing director Greene Raine said she and mayor-husband Al are busy with further development of a multi-purpose centre there. Meanwhile, $850,000 would acquire their 4,000-square-foot home beside Kamloops’ Rivershore golf course’s third green.


Vancouver Heritage Foundation head Judith Mosley and board chair David Dove fronted a fundraiser at the Hotel Vancouver’s Panorama Roof.

Malcolm Parry /

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TIME WAS: The Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s annual City Drinks fundraiser took place recently where much drinking was once done: the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver’s Panorama Roof. Foundation executive director Judith Mosley and board chair David Dove had civic historian John Atkin entertain guests with a video-supported recounting of the hotel’s eight decades. The foundation has a publication grant to record Vancouver’s early history, and has developed a heritage guide program for schools, Mosley said.

DOWN PARRYSCOPE: With permanent occupancy of his 92-year-old Mar-a-Lago approaching, Donald Trump may appreciate that the 126-room “cottage” was designed not by then-reigning Palm Beach architects Addison Mizner and Maurice Fatio but by Joseph Urban moonlighting from creating sets for the Ziegfeld Follies revues of revealingly clad showgirls.

malcolmparry@shaw.ca
604-929-8456

29Oct

B.C. school trustees ask for provincial, federal aid to stomp out student vaping

by admin


Vaping has become a major problem in B.C. schools, reports the trustees’ association.


Dax Melmer / Postmedia News files

British Columbia’s school trustees are asking for help to stop students from vaping.

Stephanie Higginson, the president of the B.C. School Trustees Association, says her members report that their schools are spending more time policing vaping and more students are breaking the rules around vaping.

Higginson says members approved a motion at the association’s provincial council meeting urging federal and provincial governments to make funding available for vape education and cessation for students.

She says council members also want vaping product advertisements, promotions and sponsorships to align with current tobacco legislation.

Higginson says a solution should be part of a larger mental-health support strategy that the association been advocating for and they know that kids who have access to such supports are less likely to vape.

The motion will be presented to B.C.’s ministries of Health and Education and to provincial health authorities and Higginson says it will also be presented to the Canadian School Board Association to advocate for support on the federal level.

 

14Oct

B.C. school districts target vaping, call for increased regulation

by admin

https://vancouversun.com/


Vaping products are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid solution to create an aerosol and typically contains nicotine or THC, the active psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.


Ranta Images / iStock/Getty Images plus

KELOWNA — A British Columbia school board says it has “serious concerns” about the risk of vaping and is asking all levels of government to take action.

In an example of how school districts are grappling with the new products amid shifting regulatory frameworks, the Central Okanagan School District outlined in a letter to parents on Friday how it is working to curb the use of e-cigarettes by students.

Since May, the school district says it has met with local municipal governments to encourage the development of bylaws to prevent advertising and targeting sales to minors.

It also says it supports proposed new provincial regulations, and the school board voted to write to local federal candidates asking how, if elected, they would address the “serious danger” posed by the electronic devices.

The board specifically asked how candidates would address the marketing of vaping products to children.

Related

Vaping products are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid solution to create an aerosol and typically contains nicotine or THC, the active psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, but Health Canada has warned people who vape to monitor themselves for symptoms of pulmonary illness.

“The Central Okanagan School District continues to have serious concerns about the impacts of vaping on human health,” the letter from Superintendent Kevin Kaardal says to parents.

School staff are focusing education on middle school students and will continue to enforce a “no-vaping zone” on school property, it says.

School principals have been instructed to confiscate any vapour products they see on campus.

“If staff see vaping products on school property, they may confiscate them and turn them over to the RCMP,” the letter says.

In B.C., the rules around the sale of vapour products are the same as cigarettes and it is against the law to sell to someone under the age of 19.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said this month that a plan will be released in “the coming weeks” to deal with regulatory change and suggested licences would be required for vendors to sell the products.

The Central Okanagan School District isn’t alone in trying to address teen vaping.

The Sooke school district said vaping is becoming an “epidemic” among teens, ahead of an information session it held in May.

In August, the Vancouver school district issued information handouts to teachers and parents.

“Teachers are in a unique position to provide unbiased information about the adverse health effects of vaping to students and their families,” the package for teachers says.

The parents’ handout says the long-term health effects of vaping remain unknown.

“As caregivers, you can connect and discuss issues around vaping products with your child,” it says.

Two teenagers filed a lawsuit in the B.C. Supreme Court Sept. 30 against popular vape brand Juul alleging they suffered “adverse health conditions” after using the company’s e-cigarettes beginning in 2018.

Juul has not yet filed a response with the court.

3Oct

Vancouver surgeon’s I’m a HIPpy program helps kids around the world

by admin

Six-year-old Mattias Thompson loves to play hockey, but he was born with a rare hip disease that is keeping him off the ice. However, thanks to early intervention and surgery, the Grade 1 student from Chilliwack may just have a chance to get back in the game one day.

Mattias is a major Pittsburgh Penguins fan, and loves sports, says his mother Nikki Thompson. While it may be years before he can play hockey, the family is hopeful he will be able to play baseball next year.

Dr. Kishore Mulpuri, the orthopedic surgeon at B.C. Children’s Hospital who performed Mattias’s surgery, said it’s too soon to comment on his long-term prognosis, but said he has a much better chance of a full recovery because of early treatment.

“We caught it very early and that will help him. If he was older he would be more at risk for arthritis. So we want to get it to as normal as we can,” said Mulpuri.

Mulpuri was recently awarded a $450,000 research grant from the federal government’s Canadian Institutes of Health Research program for his team’s project, I’m a HIPpy, which he started three years ago to help children here and in other countries receive early screening and treatment for hip dysplasia and other hip conditions.

Mattias was diagnosed with Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease, which restricts blood supply to the femur, eventually killing the bone. He spent weeks at B.C. Children’s in April having a full hip reconstruction. Preparation for that surgery included five days where for 23 hours a day he had to be in traction with his legs splayed apart.

In the summer of 2018, Mattias starting limping severely and so his family took him to the local hospital in Chilliwack. At first doctors told the family it was a virus that would go away in six weeks. After his limp got worse, they went back to the hospital and a paediatrician took X-rays and then diagnosed him with juvenile arthritis. They went to B.C. Children’s for an MRI and on that night the radiologist called the family to say he doesn’t have arthritis but instead had Perthes disease.

His journey is documented on a Facebook page called Mattias’ Perthes Journey.

He really wants to be able to run and play with his friends, but otherwise he is doing so much better, said Thompson.

“Early detection can really change the outcome for these kids,” she said.

She said the family’s steel business recently held its annual softball fundraiser and raised more than $32,000 for I’m a HIPpy to helps kids like her son benefit from early detection. On Oct. 5, the annual I’m a HIPpy fundraiser gala will take place at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Mulpuri says if hip dysplasia goes unchecked, many adults develop arthritis and will need hip replacements.

“People don’t realize that every single child around the world should be screened to see if their joints are loose,” he said, adding that roughly 40-50 people per 1,000 people are born with loose hip joints. “If it is picked up early on then they could have a normal life with an early brace treatment. So the key message is we need to get to them early.”


Dr. Kishore Mulpuri, an orthopedic surgeon at B.C. Children’s Hospital, with patient Neko Wong. Mulpuri wants to help kids around the world get screened for hip dysplasia.

BC Children’s Hospital handout /

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Overall in B.C. the mean age is three months for detection, he said, but in other countries like India and China the age is two to three years, so that means the kids at nine to 12 will be having 15 to 17 surgeries.

“Their entire childhood goes to just surgery after surgery. It affects their mobility and takes their childhood away,” he said.

Mulpuri and his team created the International Hip Dysplasia Registry, which is the largest research and patient registry in the world. The registry is funded by HIPpy, with the goal that this research will help children worldwide.

While early screening is the best method to prevent the burden of hip dysplasia, Mulpuri said there are still other risk factors that need to be addressed like baby swaddling, for example.

“A lot of people wrap the babies tight for comfort, but that puts them at risk of hip dysplasia,” he said,

Other conditions that put kids at risk include being in a breech condition or having unequal leg lengths.

“As soon as we figure out they have a dysplasia or dislocation based on the severity we then treat with a brace treatment, which has over 90 per cent success rate if you treat early,” he said.

Mulpuri advises watching children for signs of hip dysplasia including if they’re having knee pain or walking with one foot turned out. He also says parents shouldn’t worry about getting a hip X-ray or asking their doctor if their baby was screened. At birth, all newborns in B.C. are tested for hip dysplasia, but there is currently no standardized testing and in some countries, little testing at all.

When not properly diagnosed, children can go on to have numerous surgeries and physical limitations that will impact them for life, causing much suffering and significant costs to medical systems, said Mulpuri.

Mulpuri said thanks to the CIHR grant, the support of B.C. Children’s Hospital, donors and volunteers, they are expanding their network, building data and statistics into the database “at an extremely fast pace.”

The financial impact of missed hip-dysplasia diagnosis to Canada and U.S. health-care systems is about $625 million a year, according to Regina Wilken, executive director of I’m a HIPpy.

Mulpuri works with doctors in Canada, the U.S., Europe, China and India sharing the database knowledge and assisting with hip-dysplasia patient surgeries.

He says the ultimate goal is to help all children improve their quality of life.

ticrawford@postmedia.com

25Sep

Physicians need to do a better job of protecting patient files: B.C. privacy commissioner

by admin

https://vancouversun.com/


BC Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy.


PNG

Doctors’ offices regularly breach patients’ privacy so clinics across B.C. must do more to protect the information in their possession, says a report released Wednesday by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia (OIPC).

The audit and compliance report is based on 22 randomly selected medical clinics where at least five doctors worked. The audit sought to find out whether clinics and their staff are meeting legal obligations under the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA). The act dictates how private organizations collect, use and disclose personal information.

Medical clinics were chosen for the review because of the massive amount of sensitive personal information they collect and because relative to other private sector organizations, physicians’ offices, medical clinics and labs “account for the largest number of complaints and breach files received by the OIPC over the past five years.”

The scope of the review did not entail a physical inspection of electronic medical records systems, patient files storage systems or actual visits to the clinics. Rather, designated staff at the clinics answered questions and provided written material.

Even without a physical inspection of such clinics, the review discovered numerous problems with the way clinics handled patient information. Many lacked a designated privacy officer, put insufficient resources into privacy procedures and failed to stay abreast of technological advances that would help protect information.

The compliance review report says although there’s an inherently strong bond of trust between doctors and patients, the “troubling reality” is that privacy issues occur regularly in the medical field and the privacy commissioner routinely hears complaints about privacy breaches. Such breaches include accidental disclosures by email, files stolen from doctors’ vehicles, and computer systems that are compromised.

“The harms caused by these breaches can be very serious, leaving victims vulnerable to everything from damaged relationships to humiliation, financial loss and more.”

Michael McEvoy, B.C.’s information and privacy commissioner, said the compliance audit focused on medical clinics because of the large volume and sensitivity of the personal information they collect.

“The results show that while some clinics were complying with their obligations, many have work to do when it comes to improving their privacy practices. There is no question about the intense demands medical professionals face. However, respecting and protecting patients’ private information is critically important.

“Doctors and staff at clinics not only owe it to their patients to do their utmost to build and maintain strong privacy programs, but they are also legally obligated to abide by privacy legislation. I hope that the focus of this report underscores the need for clinics to address gaps in how they protect this sensitive personal information and my office’s willingness to assist them in doing so.”

The report has 16 recommendations aimed at helping clinics address the gaps in their privacy management programs, building better policies and safeguards, and ensuring they provide adequate notification about the purposes of collecting personal information online. The report recommends that clinics develop more robust privacy protocols, better responses to breaches, improved monitoring to ensure compliance and prevent breaches, provide more training for staff, and use more caution when collecting and sharing information online.

More to come.

pfayerman@postmedia.com

Twitter: @MedicineMatters

5Sep

B.C. government expands biosimilar drug program to Crohn’s, colitis patients

by admin

https://vancouversun.com/


B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix in a file photo.


Francis Georgian / PNG

The British Columbia government says it’s expanding its substitute drug program to include 1,700 patients with diseases such as Crohn’s and colitis.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says biosimilars, which are cheaper alternatives to name-brand drugs, have worked well in other countries and the province will be saving about $96.6 million to be put back into health care over three years.

Biosimilars are highly similar versions of bioengineered drugs known as biologics, and there are 17 such products approved for sale in Canada.

Bioengineered medicine is the single biggest expense for public drug plans; in 2018, B.C. spent $125 million to treat chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis and Crohn’s disease.

In January, the province made a three-year, $105-million investment to help low-income British Columbians get access to the drugs.

The initial program announced in May saw over 20,000 British Columbians move their prescription from the biologic to biosimilar drugs.

31Aug

Woman refuses to burn out her torch as she marks Overdose Awareness Day, crisis

by admin


Tabitha Montgomery with free materials she’s distributing to B.C. libraries.


Francis Georgian / Postmedia News

It was during the International Overdose Awareness Day activities last year when Tabitha Montgomery really noticed it — events that had once been rallies had become vigils.

“There was a feeling that no one was listening. That it was not making a difference,” she recalled Saturday as she set up an information booth at the Vancouver Public Library.

Montgomery’s booth was one of several awareness activities happening in B.C. this weekend to mark International Overdose Awareness Day, a global movement designed to remember those who have died from drug overdoses. And to push for change.

However, some advocacy groups that organized activities in the past were noticeably absent from this year’s list of planned events.

Montgomery attributed that to burnout.

“It can be difficult to keep going,” she said. “I want to thank those who have been paving the path for so long.”

Montgomery’s father, her best friend and her daughter’s father all died from drugs. She believes the only way to end the overdose crisis is to remove the stigma and judgment around drug use and addiction and bring the issue fully into mainstream health care.

“This is a torch in my heart,” she said.

While she doesn’t represent any single group, the former director with From Grief to Action has had success asking B.C. libraries to display free books on grief and addiction in their community resources sections. She’s hoping to get the material into more libraries in the months ahead.

(Postmedia News photo by Francis Georgian)

In a statement, B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy recognized those who have died are “parents, children, co-workers, neighbours, partners, friends and loved ones.”

The politician said the B.C. Centre for Disease Control estimates 4,700 deaths have been averted by scaled-up distribution of Naloxone, more overdose prevention sites and better access to medication-assisted treatment, known as opioid agonist treatment.

“We have a responsibility to each other, our communities and the loved ones we have lost to keep compassion, respect and understanding at the forefront of our minds — and to continue to escalate our response,” she said.

In June, 73 people died of suspected illicit drug overdoses across the province, a 35 per cent drop from June 2018 when 113 people died, according to data collected by the B.C. Coroner’s Service.

But Montgomery said addiction is still treated like a “moral and criminal issue,” rather than a health issue.

“There’s so much misunderstanding,” she said.

Overdose awareness events were held around the world, including in many B.C. cities such as Vancouver, New Westminster, Kamloops, Kelowna, Powell River, Prince George and Quesnel.

In Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the Overdose Prevention Society supported the creation of a mural in the alley near its injection site. The project wrapped up with an art show.

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30Aug

Back-to-school is big business for B.C.’s lice busters

by admin

Busy schedules, resistant bugs and, of course, the ‘ick’ factor.

B.C.’s lice busters say there are several reasons more parents are seeking professional help to deal with lice infestations — and as kids head back to school on Tuesday, they’re bracing for a busy month.

“By the end of September, we’ll likely see a few outbreaks,” said Rochelle Ivany, a Chilliwack nit picker who runs The Lice House with friend Ashley Wall. “Over the summer, kids have been off at camp, sleepovers and grandparents’ houses. When they come back to school, lice can come with them.”

Ivany entered the business when one of her kids came home with lice.

“I had no idea what to do,” she said. “Lice can be a taboo subject. No one wants to be the kid with it. Parents dread the letter coming home from school saying that there’s an outbreak in their kid’s class.”

After research and practice, Ivany set up shop in her home last year, offering people in the Fraser Valley an alternative to over-the-counter pesticides and hours of combing.

The key is to be “meticulous” while manually removing all lice and eggs with a special comb, she said.

Confidential sessions at The Lice House take between one-and-a-half to three hours depending on the severity of the infestation and the length of the client’s hair. Ivany charges $50 an hour — a lower rate than many of the services closer to Vancouver — and does comb-outs every three days until the client gets three clean comb-outs. She also provides treatment at cost for people who are referred to her through a social worker or community support worker.

“I get calls from a lot of panicked parents,” she said. “The message is that it’s OK, it’s going to be OK. We can help you.”

While it’s unclear if lice outbreaks are increasing — the B.C. Centre for Disease Control does not keep data on cases — more people are turning to professional lice removal services for help.

In Maple Ridge, Lice911 owner Barbara Pattison has been nit picking for 18 years.

“We’re the original,” she said. “When I started, there were four companies in North America.”

In the last decade, she’s expanded to provide mobile service in communities across Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island. In addition to Lice911, there are almost a dozen other companies offering treatment in B.C.

Pattison said lice seem to be more resistant to chemicals, which have become weaker in the last 10 years, while people may be too busy, or unwilling, to spend hours combing out bugs. In the last few years, she’s also seen a shift toward more teens and young adults arranging treatment for themselves, which she attributes to selfies and people putting their heads together to look at phones.

“All it takes is three seconds of hair-to-hair contact,” she said.

The lice expert advises parents to check their kids’ hair regularly for lice, looking for sticky black, brown or grey eggs half the size of a sesame seed attached to strands of hair. Some kids may have an itchy head or a rash at the nape of their neck.

“If you can catch it early, when there are 30 or 40 eggs, it’s much easier to deal with,” she said. “An average infestation is about 500 eggs.”

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23Aug

Daphne Bramham: B.C. addictions minister targets province’s ‘wild, wild West’ recovery houses

by admin

B.C. Addictions Minister Judy Darcy has no illusions about the current state of British Columbia’s recovery houses and the risk that the bad ones pose to anyone seeking safe, quality care.

Nor is she alone when she calls it “the wild, wild West.”

Anyone able to build a website and rent a house can operate a so-called recovery house. Like a game of whack-a-mole, even when inspectors try to shut down the worst ones, they spring up somewhere else.

That said, the regulations they’re supposed to enforce are so vaguely worded that it’s easier for bylaw inspectors to shut places down for garbage infractions than for failure to provide the most basic of services like food and a clean bed to people desperate for help.

Even the most deplorable ones have never been taken to court by the province, let alone fined or convicted which makes the penalties of up to $10,000 moot.

It’s taken two years, but this week Darcy — along with Health Minister Adrian Dix and Social Development Minister Shane Simpson — took the first steps toward bringing some order to the chaos and overturning years of neglect.

In two separate announcements, what they’re offering is both the stick of tighter regulations and enforcement as well as the carrot of more money for operations and training staff.

The carrots announced Friday include $4,000 grants available immediately to registered and licensed recovery home operators to offset the costs of training for staff before tougher regulations come into force on Dec. 1.

On Oct. 1, the per-diem rate paid for the treatment of people on social assistance will be raised after more than a decade without an increase. Recovery houses on the provincial registry will get a 17-per-cent increase to $35.90, while recovery houses licensed by the regional health authorities will jump to $45 from $40.

The sticks are new regulations that for the first time require things like qualified staff, which common sense should have dictated years ago as essential. Recovery houses will have to provide detailed information about what programs and services they offer. Again, this seems a no-brainer, as does requiring operators to develop personal service plans for each resident and support them as they transition out of residential care.

As for enforcement, the “incremental, remedial approach” to complaints has been scrapped and replaced with the power to take immediate action rather than waiting for a month and giving written notice to the operators.

Darcy is also among the first to admit that much, much more needs to be done to rein in bad operators whose purported treatment houses are flophouses and to provide addicts and their families with the resources they need to discern the good from the bad.

More than most, the minister knows the toll that poor funding and lack of regulation is taking both on addicts who seek help and on their loved ones. She’s haunted by meetings she’s had with the loved ones of those who have died in care and those who couldn’t get the services they needed.

“It’s the most difficult thing that I have to do and, of course, it moves me to my core,” she said in an interview following the announcement. “People say, ‘Do you ever get used to it?’ Of course I don’t. If you ever get used to it, you’re doing the wrong job.

“But I try and take that to drive me and to drive our government to do more and to move quickly and act on all fronts and having said that, there’s a lot to do. There’s really, really a lot to do.”

Among those she’s met are the two mothers of men who died within days of each other in December under deplorable conditions in two provincially registered recovery houses run by Step By Step.


B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy shares a laugh with Scott Kolodychuk, operations manager of Surrey’s Trilogy House One recovery home where Friday’s news conference was held.

Mike Bell /

PNG

It was four to six hours before 22-year-old Zach Plett’s body was found after he overdosed and died. On Christmas Eve, a 35-year-old man died at a different Step by Step house. It was two days before his body was found by other residents.

Two years before those men died, the provincial registrar had received dozens of complaints and issued dozens of non-compliances orders. Both houses remained on the registry until this summer when owner/operator Debbie Johnson voluntarily closed them.

After years of relentless advocacy Susan Sanderson, executive director of Realistic Recovery Society, was happy to host the ministers’ Friday announcement at one of its houses. She wants to believe Darcy that these are just first steps since the per-diem rate is still short of the $40 she and others lobbied for and remains a small fraction of what people who aren’t on welfare are charged — charges that can run up to $350 a day.

Having taken these long overdue and much-needed initial steps, maybe Darcy and her colleagues can take another logical next step to support working people getting access recovery who — without access to employee benefit plans — can’t afford the cost of treatment.

They shouldn’t have to wait until they’re destitute to get care, any more than someone on welfare should be deprived of help.

dbramham@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/bramham_daphne

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