LOADING...

Category "Vancouver"

20Feb

B.C. woman diagnosed with COVID-19 after returning from Iran

by admin


B.C.’s health officials are set to share an update on novel coronavirus.


Genome BC / PNG

Another case of the coronavirus has been diagnosed in British Columbia.

The provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, says a woman in her 30s has been diagnosed with COVID-19 after returning this week from Iran. The woman lives in the Fraser Health region.

“Our continued view is that the risk to B.C. is low, we are acting with vigilance,” she said.

Henry said staff were surprised by a new case linked to Iran, which only recently reported it had five cases of COVID-19 and two deaths.

“That triggered interest from people around the world,” Henry said. “I expect there will be an investigation to determine where the exposure occurred.”

Iran has reported at least 20 other people in various areas who are being tested, Henry said.  “And we’ll be linking with them to see where this person had been in Iran — we’re tracing her travel all the way back to Iran.”

Henry says the woman’s case is relatively mild and a number of her close contacts are in isolation.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said the patient’s samples have been sent to the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, Man., for final confirmation.

This brings the number of cases of COVID-19 in B.C. to six.

“So far in B.C. all of our cases have been relatively mild and managed mostly at home,” she said.

Henry said earlier that four of the five people diagnosed with the virus were symptom free.

The fifth person, a woman in her 30s who returned from Shanghai, China, is in isolation at her home in B.C.’s Interior.

Henry said over 500 people have been tested for the virus in B.C. and many of those tested positive for the flu.

“We’re in containment,” she explained, adding that because many cases are mild, the virus can be transmitted when people few symptoms.

“It makes it very difficult to contain the virus. We’re not out of the woods yet.”

Three cases of the virus have also been confirmed in Ontario.

As of Thursday, the World Health Organization said there were 75,748 confirmed cases globally, with 548 new cases reported in the past 24 hours. The majority of those cases are in China, with 2,121 deaths recorded to date in the country.

Outside of China, there have been eight deaths across 26 countries. In Canada, there have only been eight cases to date, with only one case being transmitted outside of China. There have been no deaths due to COVID-19 in Canada.

— With files from Lynn Mitges, Stephanie Ip, and the Canadian Press

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.

Related

—With files from Postmedia News

gluymes@postmedia.com

twitter.com/glendaluymes

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.

jpg

“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***

Related

With Postmedia files

gluymes@postmedia.com

twitter.com/glendaluymes

7Feb

Bruce Dewar: 2010 Olympics and Paralympics were about more than just games

by admin


The lighting of the Olympic cauldron 10 years ago this month not only served as the formal kickoff of Vancouver’s Winter Olympics, but kick-started a legacy of philanthropy and public service that went beyond sports and sport-related facilities, says Bruce Dewar.


Ric Ernst / PNG files

February marks the 10th anniversary of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

For those of us lucky enough to have been in B.C. for those 17 days in February (and 10 days in March during the Paralympics), we saw the city and province come alive in ways few of us could ever have imagined. When Sidney Crosby scored his “golden goal” to deliver the men’s hockey gold, Vancouver and Canada erupted in a shared sense of relief, celebration and pride. Vancouver, British Columbia and Canada had delivered.

As we look back to 2010 with fond memories and nostalgia, there are obvious questions: Was it worth it? Is Vancouver better off from hosting the Games? Did Games proponents deliver on their promise of legacies?

As a board member of Tourism Vancouver, I was involved from the outset of the domestic bid and then worked on the international bid for the Games. Throughout the process, we talked about legacies beyond bricks and mortar. We wanted to redefine legacies within the Olympic family, looking at how sports and the Olympic movement could be a catalyst of social, cultural and community legacies that would truly benefit communities long after the Olympic cauldron was extinguished.

As part of the Games journey, I became CEO of an organization called 2010 Legacies Now — a non-profit organization arm’s length from all three levels of government, the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committees and Vanoc (Vancouver 2010 Organizing Committee). We worked with communities and organizations across the province to discover and create inclusive social and economic opportunities. Delivered through partnerships, our work affected more than two million people across B.C. by 2010, creating legacies in sport participation, improved literacy, sport tourism, accessible tourism and accessible communities, arts and more.

ViaSport, established in 2011 by 2010 Legacies Now in consultation with the provincial sport system, continues to lead a consultative and co-ordinated provincewide approach to increase participation in sport and physical activity. Today, the amateur sports sector in British Columbia is thriving. On average, more than 718,000 athletes register for organized sports every year, with over 16,000 coaches attending training sessions. B.C. has outperformed other provincial and territorial jurisdictions in the number of registered athletes on national teams, with 38 per cent of Canada’s 2018 Olympic team tied in some way to B.C.


Sidney Crosby and Scott Niedermayer celebrate after Canada’s ‘golden goal’ won Olympic gold for its men’s hockey team over the United States in overtime at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver on Feb. 28, 2010.

YURI KADOBNOV /

AFP/Getty Images files

The Games and 2010 Legacies Now have been instrumental in increasing literacy levels in marginalized communities in the province. 2010 Legacies Now helped to establish Decoda Literacy Solutions, a provincial organization committed to the development of strong individuals, families and communities by providing literacy resources and training. Over the last decade, Decoda supported children and families, youth, adults, seniors, Indigenous and immigrant communities through community-based literacy programs and initiatives in more than 400 communities across B.C., benefiting 1.6 million people.

We worked closely with B.C.’s own Rick Hansen Foundation and other partners to tap into the growing accessibility tourism market and awareness created by the Games to ensure ours were the most accessible. We then transitioned 2010 Legacies Now’s accessible tourism program to the Hansen foundation, where they used the tools and resources as the basis for the highly successful Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility CertificationTM (RHFAC) rating system. More than 1,200 buildings across Canada have been rated, and 752 RHFAC certified. This Games-time legacy and investment will assist people with disabilities for generations to come.

And then there is the legacy of 2010 Legacies Now itself. Fuelled by the experience and knowledge gained from working with organizations and communities, 2010 Legacies Now reinvented itself as LIFT Philanthropy Partners ― the first national non-profit organization that uses a venture philanthropy approach to help build the capacity and capabilities of social purpose organizations (SPO) Canada-wide. SPOs are charities, non-profits and social enterprises that operate with the primary aim of achieving measurable social impact.

The model has been a success. We work with SPOs like Jump Math, which encourages an understanding and a love of math in students and educators; Women Building Futures, which helps women looking to enter the trades; Neil Squire Society, which uses technology, knowledge and passion to empower Canadians with disabilities; and Indspire, a national Indigenous registered charity that invests in the education of Indigenous people.


Bruce Dewar, in 2011, announces the establishment of LIFT Philanthropy Partners.

David Martin /

PNG files

We help SPOs be more sustainable and effective at delivering greater social impact in the areas of health, education and skills development leading to employment. Now, more than ever, Canadians need the tools and opportunities to thrive, not just survive. Our work is made possible with the generous support of our partner network and the individuals, corporations, governments and foundations that provide philanthropic investments to LIFT.

Critics of hosting the Games challenged the idea of legacy and impact. From the earliest days of the bid to today, all the partners took that challenge to heart. I stand behind the footprint we have left behind: Stronger literacy levels; greater participation rates in healthy activities by youth; better, increased barrier free access to facilities for people with disabilities — and more.

There are also intangible legacies ― an unwavering sense of national pride, new capabilities and the belief that anything is possible if we work together as a team. We grew as a province and a nation.

The Olympic motto states: “Faster, Higher, Stronger.” Thanks to the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, we are very much the latter.

Bruce Dewar is president and CEO of LIFT and former CEO of 2010 Legacies Now.

Related

CLICK HERE to report a typo.

Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email vantips@postmedia.com.

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.”

Related

gluymes@postmedia.com

twitter.com/glendaluymes

CLICK HERE to report a typo.

Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email vantips@postmedia.com

9Jan

Pest problems grow with Canadian cannabis industry

by admin


Amanda Brown, a biological crop protection specialist with Biobest, sets up a booth at the Lift & Co. Cannabis Expo in Vancouver on Jan. 9.


NICK PROCAYLO / PNG

Amanda Brown’s job requires a knowledge of both biology and battle strategy.

As a biological crop protection specialist, she sends “armies” of beneficial insects in search of the pests that devour B.C. crops like cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers — and now, cannabis.

“It’s a beautiful system,” she said. “It’s a very holistic approach.”

With legal cannabis cultivation still in its early days, scientists are in a fight to learn what kinds of pests and diseases pose a risk to the plants and how to beat them.

“Pests and diseases are on the increase,” said Zamir Punja, a professor in plant biotechnology at Simon Fraser University. “It definitely represents a challenge to the industry.”

As the overall area of cannabis production increases, so do the problems and their chances of spreading. Growers across North America are currently facing a root aphid outbreak that appears to have started in Colorado.

Punja said the appearance of some pests was predictable as Canada moved to a regulated industry. Spider mites, for example, are an issue for growers of almost every crop in B.C.

“It’s certainly not unexpected to see them,” said Brown, who works for Biobest Canada.

But other pests are less common.

“Pests that only target cannabis are more difficult to treat. We’ve had less time to study what works,” she said.

Bugs like cannabis aphids aren’t new, but in the previously illegal industry, growers weren’t limited by regulations.

“If they came upon these tricky pests, they could spray something and nobody would know,” she said.

Health Canada regulations forbid the use of chemical pesticides, including some that have been deemed safe for use in food production, meaning growers must depend on an arsenal of organic and biological products, including beneficial insects.

“It’s not as simple as replacing Chemical X with Bug Y,” said Brown.

The specialist helps growers develop pest-control programs that are tailored to their crops, growing style and pest problems. She believes that in time cannabis production and pest-management strategies will become more standardized across Canada.

Punja, too, is at the forefront of disease-management practices. His focus is on identifying the problem and how it arrived at a specific facility, whether it was through movement of plant material or on a worker’s clothing.

Prevention and management often involve cleanliness, as well as the quarantine of infected plants.

The scientist believes Health Canada may eventually approve more products for pest management, but research is needed to make the case to the federal Health Ministry. The companies that produce chemical pesticides may be reluctant to undertake the research or make the application since many of them are based in the U.S. where cannabis is still illegal under federal law.

A limited number of products approved for cannabis — about 21 non-chemical approaches, compared with almost 100 chemical and non-chemical approaches for tomatoes — means Canadian cannabis growers must be innovative to deal with pests.

“In talking to producers, they seem very keen to try new things,” said Punja. “I don’t see this hindering them.”

Related

gluymes@postmedia.com

twitter.com/glendaluymes

4Jan

Vancouver parks ponder non-gendered washrooms for all

by admin


New washroom signage at Vancouver City Hall is being updated to state, “Trans people welcome.”


City of Vancouver / PNG

Vancouver parks could soon be home to non-gendered washrooms designed to be shared by people of all abilities, families, transgender and gender-diverse people.

A draft report being reviewed by the City’s advisory committees calls for improved “privacy, safety and efficiency through universal design.” About 20 new washrooms are being proposed for Vancouver parks, while others could be altered if they are deemed inaccessible.

The park board has already set an important precedent with universal change rooms at the Hillcrest Community Centre.

The Washroom Strategy draft document is currently being reviewed by the City’s advisory committees for seniors, the LGBTQ2+ community, persons with disabilities, children, youth and families, women, and urban Indigenous peoples.

It asks point blank: “Do you think that all park washrooms should be universal?”

The City has already installed “trans people welcome” signage on washrooms at city hall and other city-run buildings as part of its Supporting Trans* Equality and an Inclusive Vancouver plan.

Gender-inclusive washrooms are becoming a fixture on many university campuses, including UBC.

The Point Grey campus has several dozen single-user unisex washrooms and also communal gender-neutral washrooms that include signage indicating gender inclusivity that have operated without incident.

“We’ve not had any complaints,” Sara-Jane Finlay, associate vice-president, Equity and Inclusion. “The communal facilities feature stalls with floor to ceiling doors for privacy and of course there are always single stall washrooms. People have a choice.”

Gender-inclusive communal washrooms are still relatively rare. But Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre opened a communal, 10-stall gender-neutral washroom about one year ago. The mall has seven gender-specific washrooms, as well.


The Vancouver park board is taking feedback on a Washroom Strategy that includes a transition to non-gendered washrooms in Vancouver parks.

Vancouver Board of Parks and Rec /

PNG

The notion of shared, non-gendered washrooms sparked a lively debate and a considerable amount of support in a Facebook poll, which was punctuated by concerns about sexual harassment, sexual assault and the unsanitary condition of washrooms used by men.

“Having to touch a toilet seat, to put it down or wipe extensive urine spray from it, in a public washroom grosses me out,” offered broadcaster Jody Vance. “As does standing in a puddle of pee associated with bad aim. So — I’m cool to share with whomever — as long as we can maintain cleanliness for those who don’t have the option to stand and relieve themselves.”

Many respondents who support “inclusive” washrooms and argued they might actually be safer for people in parks that might be isolated.

“Violent predators already have access to any washroom they want,” said Kevin Moroso. “Having a single bathroom increases the likelihood that there are more people present, rather than a woman being alone in a woman’s washroom with a male predator.”

Not everyone agreed.

“Homeless people use those washrooms disproportionately,” said Stuart Parker, broadcaster and former leader of the Green party of B.C. “I don’t want there to be yet another policy change that makes homeless women feel even less safe and in control of their space.”

Short term priorities in the draft report include creating a task force to visit existing washrooms and direct renovations to ensure accessibility, increase staff to better focus on safety and cleanliness and standardize signage to make washrooms easier to find.

More mobile trailer toilets could be used to meet the needs of parks that see heavy seasonal use.

Consultations for the City’s VanPlay parks masterplan revealed a need for add washrooms at playing fields, destination playgrounds, and beaches, and to ensure facilities are kept clean.

Almost 43 per cent of washroom-related calls to the City’s feedback line concerned cleanliness.

According to the draft, John Hendry Park Masterplan about three quarters of all respondents support a new washroom building at the South Beach and expanded facilities on the north east side of the park, known locally as Trout Lake.

rshore@postmedia.com

CLICK HERE to report a typo.

Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email vantips@postmedia.com

4Jan

Vancouver parks ponder non-gendered washrooms for all

by admin


New washroom signage at Vancouver City Hall is being updated to state, “Trans people welcome.”


City of Vancouver / PNG

Vancouver parks could soon be home to non-gendered washrooms designed to be shared by people of all abilities, families, transgender and gender-diverse people.

A draft report being reviewed by the City’s advisory committees calls for improved “privacy, safety and efficiency through universal design.” About 20 new washrooms are being proposed for Vancouver parks, while others could be altered if they are deemed inaccessible.

The park board has already set an important precedent with universal change rooms at the Hillcrest Community Centre.

The Washroom Strategy draft document is currently being reviewed by the City’s advisory committees for seniors, the LGBTQ2+ community, persons with disabilities, children, youth and families, women, and urban Indigenous peoples.

It asks point blank: “Do you think that all park washrooms should be universal?”

The City has already installed “trans people welcome” signage on washrooms at city hall and other city-run buildings as part of its Supporting Trans* Equality and an Inclusive Vancouver plan.

Gender-inclusive washrooms are becoming a fixture on many university campuses, including UBC.

The Point Grey campus has several dozen single-user unisex washrooms and also communal gender-neutral washrooms that include signage indicating gender inclusivity that have operated without incident.

“We’ve not had any complaints,” Sara-Jane Finlay, associate vice-president, Equity and Inclusion. “The communal facilities feature stalls with floor to ceiling doors for privacy and of course there are always single stall washrooms. People have a choice.”

Gender-inclusive communal washrooms are still relatively rare. But Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre opened a communal, 10-stall gender-neutral washroom about one year ago. The mall has seven gender-specific washrooms, as well.


The Vancouver park board is taking feedback on a Washroom Strategy that includes a transition to non-gendered washrooms in Vancouver parks.

Vancouver Board of Parks and Rec /

PNG

The notion of shared, non-gendered washrooms sparked a lively debate and a considerable amount of support in a Facebook poll, which was punctuated by concerns about sexual harassment, sexual assault and the unsanitary condition of washrooms used by men.

“Having to touch a toilet seat, to put it down or wipe extensive urine spray from it, in a public washroom grosses me out,” offered broadcaster Jody Vance. “As does standing in a puddle of pee associated with bad aim. So — I’m cool to share with whomever — as long as we can maintain cleanliness for those who don’t have the option to stand and relieve themselves.”

Many respondents who support “inclusive” washrooms and argued they might actually be safer for people in parks that might be isolated.

“Violent predators already have access to any washroom they want,” said Kevin Moroso. “Having a single bathroom increases the likelihood that there are more people present, rather than a woman being alone in a woman’s washroom with a male predator.”

Not everyone agreed.

“Homeless people use those washrooms disproportionately,” said Stuart Parker, broadcaster and former leader of the Green party of B.C. “I don’t want there to be yet another policy change that makes homeless women feel even less safe and in control of their space.”

Short term priorities in the draft report include creating a task force to visit existing washrooms and direct renovations to ensure accessibility, increase staff to better focus on safety and cleanliness and standardize signage to make washrooms easier to find.

More mobile trailer toilets could be used to meet the needs of parks that see heavy seasonal use.

Consultations for the City’s VanPlay parks masterplan revealed a need for add washrooms at playing fields, destination playgrounds, and beaches, and to ensure facilities are kept clean.

Almost 43 per cent of washroom-related calls to the City’s feedback line concerned cleanliness.

According to the draft, John Hendry Park Masterplan about three quarters of all respondents support a new washroom building at the South Beach and expanded facilities on the north east side of the park, known locally as Trout Lake.

rshore@postmedia.com

CLICK HERE to report a typo.

Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email vantips@postmedia.com

27Dec

Buying B.C.: Record year for local agriculture

by admin


The popularity of farmers markets contributed to a record year for B.C. food sales. In this file photo, shoppers browse the Tomato Festival at the Trout Lake Farmers Market at John Hendry Park on Saturday, August 26, 2017.


Jason Payne / PNG

British Columbians helped make 2018 a record year for farmers, eating — and drinking — $6.4 billion-worth of local food.

The Ministry of Agriculture recently reported record-setting revenue for the B.C. agriculture industry — which includes farms, ranches, seafood and food-processing operations — as new data shows the sale of local food generated $15 billion for the first time last year.

Agriculture Minister Lana Popham credited farmers for helping the industry reach “new heights.”

While the data shows revenue from provincial agriculture exports rose 10 per cent in 2018, the biggest consumers of B.C. products were British Columbians.

In 2017, the Ministry of Agriculture began work on a three-pronged approach to increasing local consumption of local food. Grow B.C. supports entrepreneurs and new farmers, while Buy B.C. helps B.C. companies promote their products at home, and Feed B.C. encourages the use of B.C. products in government-operated institutions and facilities.

“It’s food as medicine,” Popham said at a press conference announcing a new partnership with the Interior Health Authority in March. “Feed B.C. is a game changer. It’s about working collaboratively to encourage, inspire and support a shift to more B.C. foods in health-care and other government facilities.”

Since then, Interior Health has been working to increase the B.C.-grown foods on the menu at its 55 hospitals, care homes and adult day programs.

“We’re regularly looking for opportunities to incorporate B.C. products,” Interior Health director of support services Andrew Pattison said Friday.

Some of the challenges associated with sourcing local food have become opportunities, such as the seasonality of B.C. produce.

“Because of our growing season, it’s not always possible to get a year-round supply of certain produce,” said Pattison. That’s forced the authority to offer a more seasonal menu.

B.C. produce, sourced from a farm in Oliver, as well as B.C. eggs, ground beef and milk are among the local food served in institutions run by the health authority.

Regional production kitchens at Penticton Regional Hospital and Vernon Jubilee Hospital transform local ingredients into meals and food items that can be served in all Interior Health facilities, as opposed to buying packaged food.

“This is a foundational program,” said Pattison. “We want to do right by the population we serve.”

Related

gluymes@postmedia.com

twitter.com/glendaluymes

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.

gluymes@postmedia.com

twitter.com/glendaluymes

Related

CLICK HERE to report a typo.

Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email vantips@postmedia.com

This website uses cookies and asks your personal data to enhance your browsing experience.