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Category "Local Health"

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

Fifth case of coronavirus reported in British Columbia

by admin


Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry said the newest patient is a woman in her 30s who lives within the Interior Health Region.


Jason Payne / PNG

B.C. health officials said Friday that a fifth presumptive case of novel coronavirus has been reported in British Columbia.

Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry said the newest patient is a woman in her 30s who lives within the Interior Health Region.

The woman recently returned from Shanghai, China.

Henry said the woman did not visit Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak.

“She came home from Shanghai through YVR and travelled by private vehicle to her home in the Interior,” said Henry.

Henry says the woman is in isolation at home and in good condition.

Henry says the woman wore a mask on the plane and contacted health officials when she had symptoms of an illness before being tested positive Tuesday for the virus called COVID-19.

The results came back positive on Thursday.

Henry says officials will be contacting passengers who sat three rows ahead and behind the woman on the aircraft that arrived from China but the risk to them is “very, very low.”

Interior Health is actively investigating. Her close contacts have been identified and are being contacted,” said Henry.

It will remain a presumptive case until the test results are confirmed at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg within 48 hours. If confirmed, it would be the fifth case of COVID-19 in B.C., and the first outside the Vancouver Coastal Health region.

Henry says the first person to be tested for the virus in the province is recovering well and has tested negative in the first of two tests that would indicate the virus no longer exists.

“Public health teams are providing ongoing care and support to all five individuals,” said Henry, adding all four remain in isolation.

She says 715 tests have been done on 500 people returning from China based on a low threshold for testing of the virus that originated in Hubei province.

Confirmed cases in mainland China jumped to 63,851 by the end of Thursday, up 5,090 from the previous day. The death toll in China rose 121 to 1,380.

With files from The Associated Press and Canadian Press

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 /

PNG

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.

PNG

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.

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—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.

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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

9Feb

‘Back at square one:’ B.C. Crohn’s patient struggles with forced transition to biosimilar medication

by admin

For 10 years, Debbie Aschwanden managed the symptoms of Crohn’s disease with a drug called Remicade.

When the provincial government announced it would no longer fund the drug through Pharmacare, she and about 1,700 patients with inflammatory bowel disease were told to switch to a less-expensive copycat drug before March 5.

For two months after she switched, the Williams Lake insurance broker struggled with “horrible” symptoms that felt like a Crohn’s flare-up or a bad flu.

“I was super sick,” said Aschwanden, who has a 13-year-old son. “I had to miss a few days of work even though I tried to push through.”

She switched to Inflectra first, one of the two biosimilar drugs indicated by the government to replace Remicade. After two infusions, her doctor switched her to another biosimilar called Renflexis, hoping for a better result. So far, she hasn’t had the same symptoms, but she isn’t feeling as healthy as she did while on the original biologic drug.

“After I was diagnosed (with Crohn’s), I was so thankful to find something that helped,” she said. “To have that ripped from under me was really tough. It was like I was back at square one.”

Crohn’s patients were part of a second group of British Columbians who were required to transition their prescriptions to a biosimilar equivalent beginning last year.

In September, the government announced gastroenterology patients across B.C. would have six months to switch their prescription from Remicade to Inflectra or Renflexis.

The news followed a similar announcement in May, when B.C. became the first Canadian province to stop funding three injectable drugs, including Lantus, Ebrel and Remicade, for non-gastroenterology patients. An estimated 20,000 patients were given until Nov. 25 to switch to biosimilar drugs for diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, plaque psoriasis and several other chronic conditions.

Coverage for the original drugs would only be provided in exceptional cases, decided on a case-by-case basis.


Debbie Aschwanden with her husband Sepp and son Josef.

Submitted photo /

PNG

Biosimilars are similar to generic drugs in that they are manufactured after the 20-year patent expires on the original biologics. But they cost 25 to 50 per cent less than the original.

According to the B.C. Ministry of Health, the province spent $125 million on the three biologic drugs affected by the policy change in 2018, including $84.2 million on Remicade. Since Remicade was approved for sale by the federal government in 2001, the province has spent more than $671 million.

“We know that the use of biosimilars in other countries has worked extremely well in ensuring people get the medication they need, and it’s time we caught up,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said at a news conference in September. “By using biosimilars in B.C., we will be putting about $96.6 million back into health care over the next three years.”

But critics said the financial gains don’t offset the hardship experienced by patients who are sensitive to prescription changes.

“We’ve heard of dozens and dozens of challenges experienced by people in B.C.,” said Mina Mawani, president and CEO of Crohn’s & Colitis Canada.

She said the charity is aware of 140 Crohn’s patients who have applied for an exemption to receive coverage for Remicade, but only two have been approved. Among those denied was a person with Stage 4 cancer who also has Crohn’s disease and someone with a complex history of anxiety. Several nursing mothers are waiting to hear if their exemption requests will be approved.


Mina Mawani.

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“I feel disheartened,” said Mawani. “We’ve been told that patients are simply being emotional about switching. But we know they’re not emotional. This is their life.”

She said Crohn’s & Colitis Canada believes biosimilars are a safe and effective treatment for people with inflammatory bowel disease, but patients and doctors should have a choice.

“The issue is not about starting new patients on the biosimilar drugs. It’s about the government forcing people who are stable to make the switch. What does that do to their health, including their mental health?”

Mawani said the government isn’t able to answer that question because it is not adequately tracking the impact of the switch on individual patients.

The Ministry of Health was unable to provide answers to questions about outcomes for people with Crohn’s disease or the number exceptional requests it has received. Material on its website says B.C. spent nine years studying biosimilars before announcing the switch, consulting with a wide variety of physician and patient groups, as well as regional health authorities and Health Canada.

Figures provided by the Ministry of Health shows that as of Dec. 31, 55 per cent of B.C. patients on Lantus had switched to a biosimilar, while 78 per cent on Enbrel and 73 per cent on Remicade for non-gastrointestinal issues had switched, for a total of 11,930 patients.

Gastroenterology patients were given until March 5 to transition from Remicade to Inflectra or Renflexis. As of Dec. 31, 28 per cent, or 529 people out of 1,858, had switched.

Not everyone is upset about biosimilars, with many B.C. doctors and scientists in favour of them. As a result of thesavings, diabetics now receive coverage for an additional drug, Jardiance, which doctors had long advocated.

***OPTIONAL CUT FOR PRINT***

Dix said he made the switch to a 15 per cent cheaper biosimilar to treat his Type 1 diabetes and there were no negative effects.

B.C. Diabetes’s medical director, Dr. Tom Elliott, also characterized the switch as a “non-event” for diabetics, calling the transition “seamless.”

“The big story for me is what the government is going to do with the money saved. It’s led to the approval of another drug, which is a great thing. What else will they do?”

Health Canada has also said it has no concerns about the B.C. policy and there are no differences expected between the categories of drugs when it comes to safety and effectiveness.

Since B.C. made the switch to biologic drugs, Manitoba and Alberta have followed suit, with Ontario considering the change as well. In Alberta, where patients have until July to transition, the Opposition NDP is urging the government to reconsider and Crohn’s patients rallied outside the legislature in December.

***END OPTIONAL CUT FOR PRINT***

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With Postmedia files

gluymes@postmedia.com

twitter.com/glendaluymes

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 /

PNG

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 /

PNG

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 /

PNG

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 /

PNG

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 /

PNG

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 /

PNG

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

4Feb

Daphne Bramham: Urgent overhaul of long-term care funding and oversight needed

by admin


In 2017-18, for-profit operators failed to deliver 207,000 hours of care for which the B.C. government paid them.


AlexRaths / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Some corporate-owned, long-term care homes in B.C. are getting money for nothing, while not-for-profits may be getting less than they need for their services to be sustainable.

But the bottom line is that the losers are both vulnerable seniors and taxpayers who are footing the $1.3-billion annual bill.

To be clear, it may be unconscionable, but for-profit operators who run a third of all the long-term homes and beds in B.C. are not breaking any rules. Just as it’s fair to assume that not-for-profits, who account for another third of the total, aren’t deliberately leaving money on the table.

The problem is that the system is broken.


B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie (Richard Lam/PNG)

Patients and their families have been complaining for years. On Tuesday, B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie clearly set out the evidence in her report, A Billion Reasons to Care, which comes within a few months of Island Health taking over three privately operated homes.

Mackenzie’s funding review is a scorching indictment of the government’s failure to properly manage one of the largest contracting relationships it has with service providers. To some extent, Mackenzie said, the government is handing long-term care operators blank cheques.

She said the rules haven’t kept pace with the fundamental shift in government procurement policy that began 20 years ago when long-term care was contracted out to private operators who were then allowed to opt out of the Health Employers Association of B.C., which once bargained on behalf of all publicly funded, health-care employers.

Rules are non-existent, vague or not uniformly applied. Direct care hours, for example, aren’t necessarily separated out from the hours that care aides spend on food service or housekeeping. Financial monitoring is scant with no requirement for detailed or audited reports.

In 2017-18, for-profit operators failed to deliver 207,000 hours of care for which the B.C. government paid them. Were they fined? No. They got to keep the money.

Meantime, not-for-profit operators delivered 80,000 hours of care more than they were contracted to provide. Those extra hours were paid for either by lower costs in another area or by other funding sources.

It is true that all operators face a staffing crisis that Mackenzie describes as being of epidemic proportions, with nearly 90 per cent of care homes not able to meet minimum staffing guidelines.

But it’s partially self-inflicted. For-profit operators’ wage costs for each hour of direct care is lower across all classifications than the costs at not-for-profits and the homes run directly by health authorities.

Some for-profits are paying care aides, who provide two-thirds of the care, nearly a third less than the industry standard, which works out to $6.63 an hour. Part of the difference is that for-profit operators are more likely to hire part-time rather than full-time workers, which eliminates the need to pay benefits.

Raise the salaries, says Mackenzie, and workers will follow the money.

The government and health authorities should also follow the money. Rather than setting a minimum wage or requiring that all operators pay the industry standard, Mackenzie says to simply end the incentive to not deliver the care. If operators didn’t deliver 207,000 hours of care, they should have been required to give that money back.

But there are no penalties in any of the contracts. Don’t deliver and, ka-ching!, the bottom line suddenly looks a lot better as taxpayers’ money transforms into shareholder profits.

Disturbingly, Mackenzie found that contracts varied both between and within health authorities.

“All spoke to delivery of care,” she said Tuesday. “But none specified the type of care. None outlined any legal requirements to provide the care. And none had explicit penalties for non-compliance.”

Every health authority also had different reporting systems. Different ones allowed expenses to be claimed differently. There were also anomalies between the profit and non-profit operators, including for-profits having surpluses 12 times higher and profits three times higher.

The health authorities allowed for-profit operators to claim building expenses at 20 per cent of their revenues compared to the not-for-profits’ nine per cent. They also allowed mortgage interest rates considerably higher than market rates, double the depreciation rates, unexplained lump-sum payments to contractors working for affiliated companies, unspecified management fees in addition to administrative expenses that are higher than non-profits.

One concern Mackenzie has about non-profits claiming lower building expenses is that they will not be able to upgrade their facilities as they age, meet any new accessibility requirements that may be required, or expand to meet the tsunami of demand from an aging population.

It all needs to change and change quickly before even more public money is funnelled into corporate profits at the expense of vulnerable seniors who aren’t getting the care they need and deserve.

dbramham@postmedia.com

Twitter: @bramham_daphne

2Feb

Chinese New Year baby’s B.C. family gives gift of life in cord-blood donation

by admin


Jack Chieh and Yinnie Wong with their baby boy, born last Friday (Chinese New Year). The couple donate her baby’s cord blood to the cord blood bank at B.C. Women’s Hospital & Health Centre.


Handout

Yinnie Wong and Jack Chieh’s six-pound, 13-ounce baby boy — as yet unnamed — was born on an auspicious day, Jan. 24, Chinese New Year, and he’s already doing good in the world.

“Everyone was really happy, it is supposed to be a lucky day,” said Wong.

Although the birth was a planned C-section, Wong had no control over the date hospital administrators chose for the birth. What she did have control over was the choice to donate her baby’s cord blood to the cord blood bank at B.C. Women’s Hospital & Health Centre, which has just celebrated its fifth anniversary.

Cord blood is blood that is taken from the umbilical cord and placenta immediately after the birth of a healthy infant. Cord blood is rich in stem cells, and can be used to treat over 80 diseases, including leukemia.

According to Canadian Blood Services, ethnically diverse donors are especially needed because although Stats Canada data shows 67.7 per cent of Canadians consider their ethnic origin to be diverse, only 31 per cent of Canadians with blood in Canada’s stem-cell registry are from ethnically diverse backgrounds.

Crystal Nguyen, 20, is a former B.C. Children’s Hospital patient whose life was saved by a stem-cell transplant from donated cord blood. Nguyen was first diagnosed with acute myleloid leukemia at age 12. After chemo, she went into remission for almost three years. Then the cancer returned. She was told she needed a bone-marrow transplant. 


Crystal Nguyen, now 20, was first diagnosed with acute myleloid leukemia at age 12. She found a stem-cell match for a needed bone-marrow transplant through the international cord blood bank.

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“When I relapsed I was very confused, it was kind of surreal. The main thing about being told I needed the bone-marrow stem-cell transplant was confusion, fear and anxiety.”

Nguyen is of Vietnamese descent and needed a match to survive. No one in her family was a match, nor was there a stem-cell match in the Canadian cord blood bank, but a match was found thanks to the Canadian Blood Services’ partnerships with 47 international blood banks.

“I was told it came through the international cord blood bank from somewhere very far away,” said Nguyen, who has been in remission since the transplant.

When she learned the stem-cell transplant had been successful, Nguyen, who is now studying to become a pediatric oncology nurse, said it felt too good to be true.

“There was a lot of happiness, joy, excitement. Donating cord blood is such a simple way to save a life.”

Although cord blood can be collected and stored for a fee by private companies and reserved for the donor family’s use, cord blood donated through Canadian Blood Services is available free to the public — whoever needs the match.

Wong didn’t hesitate when her son was born. “I felt like I wanted to do it if it helps someone in the public, and  if it could save lives — I would have been very happy to help another child,” said Wong, who is a nurse at B.C. Women’s hospital. 

dryan@postmedia.com

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31Jan

Surgical face masks hard to find in Vancouver stores over fear of coronavirus outbreak

by admin

The global coronavirus medical emergency has caused a run on face masks that has led to a virtual citywide sellout and some retailers unable to replenish stocks.

Jin Kim, who works at Sandy Farm Market, was able to get ahold of a paper disposable mask for her shift handling the fruits and vegetables at the small Kerrisdale shop on Friday.

“I want to protect myself,” she said. “I’m a cancer patient, so I can’t get sick.”

Asked if she thinks it protects her against the coronavirus, which has sickened thousands and killed hundreds, she laughed and said she didn’t think so.

A coworker, who didn’t want his name used, was loading produce on the shelves also wearing a mask, along with half the store’s staff.

“I wear it to protect me and I wear it to protect (the customers), it’s both,” he said. “Some of them say I like that you’re wearing it.”

Around the corner from the produce store, the London Drugs outlet posted a sign at the pharmacy lineup: “We are currently sold out of masks.”

At a nearby Shoppers Drug Mart, staff said no masks and no hope of getting more because the warehouses are also sold out.

And a Pure Pharmacy on Vancouver’s West Side, which had sold a Sun reader five disposal paper masks in a ziplock baggie for $7.99 on Wednesday, had none in stock on Friday with no prospects for more, a staffer said.

Vancouver General Hospital ER has a sign posted requesting anyone with symptoms to wear a mask while at the hospital. A week ago, there was a stack of the disposal paper versions on the counter, but on Friday a nurse said she would dispense one only to people who need it.

A Pharmasave store in Kerrisdale on Friday was selling N95 masks, which offer the best filtration of fine particulates, for $30 for two and $85 for a box of 10. Some London Drugs outlets had masks for sale, and various masks could be found on online classified sites.

But there were reports the large online retailers had run out of stock mid-week, and that prompted a warning from the Better Business Bureau serving Mainland B.C.

“This trending demand may spiral scammers, fly-by-nighters and shady businesses to take advantage of consumers,” said spokeswoman Karla Laird in a release.

“Consumers need to be on the lookout for fake websites harvesting credit card information, sponsored ads posted by fraudsters that offer prices that are too good to be true, deceptive posts disguising malicious links, and fake social media business profiles that take your money and give you nothing in return.”

Know the advertiser, protect your personal information, do your research, and think before clicking on a link, she said.

Canadian health officials stress the risk of contracting the coronavirus is low, despite confirmation of several cases in Canada.

While a drug store mask won’t protect against a virus transmitted through the air, they can stop transmission of tiny droplets expelled by a cough or sneeze. But without a proper hermetic seal, small drops can still escape.

Doctors instead recommend frequent handwashing, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, and discarding tissues after blowing your nose and then washing your hands. Avoid touching your mouth or nose so as not to transmit pathogens to your hands.

Doctors also warn of the risk of someone else putting on a mask that has been used by a sick person if it’s not immediately discarded after use.

slazaruk@postmedia.com

— with file from National Post

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