Posts Tagged "News"

4Aug

B.C. rejects calls for individualized air quality supports for people with disabilities and those at risk from wildfire smoke

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VANCOUVER —
Though there is widespread consensus that wildfire smoke has become an annual health issue for thousands of high-risk British Columbians, the provincial government is rejecting calls for individualized air quality measures and defending its one-size-fits-all approach.

CTV News Vancouver has spoken with several people with disabilities and the BC Lung Association, who all agree that the long-term issue of poor air quality during annual wildfire smoke should prompt the province to consider air purifiers an essential health device for those with relevant health conditions.

“I would not be surprised to see more people with underlying conditions going to emergency rooms,” said Dr. Menn Biagtan of the BC Lung Association, noting that the thousands of British Columbians who’ve had COVID-19 are now included in that category.

“I think one of the lessons we’re going to learn from this wildfire season is that air purifiers (should be) available for those who really need it or cannot afford it. I would be in agreement with that, and that should be included in the plan.” 

Disability researcher and policy analyst Gabrielle Peters raised the issue with the province last year, penning a letter to several ministries and urging them to consider an extension to the BC Medical program.

“Disabled people are disproportionately likely to live below the poverty line and already facing extraordinary costs because of COVID-19,” she wrote last fall. “It is simply not possible to purchase air purifiers at this income level.” 

The Ministry of Health rejected the idea of providing air purifiers to individuals in its response to Peters, saying it was too complex and expensive to do so and that the government was focussed on community centres and shopping malls as centres where anyone could find relief during periods of poor air quality. The ministry reiterated this position when CTV News asked about the issue on Wednesday.

“Due to these unique individual considerations when purchasing a portable air purifier, the provincial government does not provide portable air purifiers to the public,” wrote ministry staffer, who said no interviews were possible on the issue.

“BC Housing has an Extreme Heat and Wildfire Smoke Response Protocol for social housing buildings managed by BC Housing, including the creation of cooling rooms, regular checks on tenants and providing tenants with information about how to stay cool and protect themselves from smoke.”

PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES AND COMPLEX HEALTH ISSUES SPEAK UP

While the smoke from wildfires may be an unpleasant annoyance for many people, for others, the weeks of fine particulate matter in the air can have serious health consequences. 

“I get migraines and respiratory distress that triggers heart problems for me,” said Q, a disabled person in Chilliwack with a connective tissue disorder and COPD, among other complex health issues, which are aggravated by wildfire smoke.

“I am likely to faint if I do go outside; I have been hospitalized with wildfire smoke exposure.” 

For those living in the Okanagan, the impacts have been even more intense and long-running.

“I know so many disabled people who, like me, are reluctant to seek medical care unless it’s a crisis since we spend so much time and energy navigating the system,” wrote Kelowna resident Shaunna Muckersie, who has permanent lung damage after mistaking a serious cough in 2018 as wildfire-smoke-related, when she actually had a lung abscess and double pneumonia.

“I am very lucky in my living situation in that I have been able to acquire an air purifier to run in my bedroom,” added Muckersie. “I genuinely don’t know what I would do otherwise. The mall and library are not safe for me now because of COVID, and as my disability has gradually worsened, I have had difficulty driving at times.”

PREPARING FOR WILDFIRE SMOKE IN ADVANCE

The BC Lung Association includes wildfire smoke prominently in its “State of the Air” report, urging British Columbians to start preparing for issues before the smoke sets in. https://bc.lung.ca/wildfire-smoke-and-health

“Exposure to wildfire smoke is associated with a range of acute effects, particularly for those with respiratory diseases,” note the report’s authors. “Evidence of longer-term health effects is also starting to emerge.”

Biagtan reiterated the advice to stock up on medications, have a “clean air room” in each home and make sure that anyone investing in an air purifier gets the right size for the space they want to use it in. She also advocated using the DIY option the B.C. Centre for Disease Control is recommending for those in a budget. It costs just $60 in materials. 

“lf you’re planning to go out, look up the Air Quality Health Index,” she added. “If it’s high, stay indoors and seek clean air shelters. If your symptoms are worsening, consult your doctor or go to the emergency room.”

AN ECONOMIC AND HUMANITARIAN CASE FOR AIR QUALITY SUPPORTS

Peters would like to see wheelchair-accessible hotel rooms reserved for Interior Health residents to be able to escape the intense smoke near their homes, pointing out that unless the flames from a wildfire threaten someone’s home, they can be living in a fire zone for weeks with horrendous air quality and little escape if they don’t have the money or social connections to stay elsewhere.

She added that without access to air purifiers, high-risk people with compromised immune systems, cardiac conditions, various lung issues and physical disabilities can take up critical acute care resources.

“Research has shown emergency room visits and hospitalizations go up when there is wildfire smoke in the air,” wrote Peters. “We also know that (fine particulate matter) can cause both immediate acute symptoms and long term health effects.”

And while the argument that supplying air purifiers is more economical than a hospital stay doesn’t appear to be part of the government’s calculus, Q doesn’t think the government is taking into account the people who feel invisible in their health struggles, which are amplified each summer.

“The government has to rethink messaging and how we’re involved with these decisions,” Q said. “We really do get left on the sidelines. The greatest effects (from wildfire smoke) are against the people who are not cared for and not remembered by most of society.” 

2Aug

Afghan Kitchen restaurant in Surrey targeted with vandalism

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VANCOUVER —
The owners of a popular restaurant in Surrey are reeling after they were targeted with yet another act of vandalism.

Early Saturday morning a man approached the restaurant patio of the Afghan Kitchen, and began smashing the establishment’s outdoor heaters – first by tipping them over and then repeatedly picking them up and dropping them.

“For those visiting us today and this coming week, please do excuse the mess and lack of heating on our patio,” reads a statement from the restaurant on social media.

“Otherwise, we’re lost for words.”

The vandal’s actions were caught on a security camera. He was wearing all black, with a baseball cap and white headphones around his neck. According to the restaurant he came around 6 a.m.

The Afghan Kitchen, located in South Surrey, is owned in part by the Sarwari family, who immigrated from Afghanistan to Canada, and features their family’s recipes.

At one point, in the video, he begins to leave, but then turns back to further destroy the patio heaters by bending them with his hands.

This is not the first time that the restaurant has been subject to seemingly random acts of vandalism. In the spring and summer of 2020, thieves targeted the patio and stole plants multiple times.

29Jul

17 ‘stranger attacks’ in just 2 weeks in Vancouver, police say, releasing video of an incident

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VANCOUVER —
Officers are investigating an incident they say is just one of more than a dozen random assaults reported in Vancouver in the last few weeks.

Police said the incident was reported in the early morning hours of July 11, though the public was not notified until this week.

In a news release, the Vancouver Police Department said a man was walking home along Granville Street at about 3:30 a.m. that day when he was approached by a group of men.

Part of the incident was captured by a nearby security camera, according to the VPD, who released some of that video Thursday.

Police said the video shows a man pushed the victim down. Another helped the victim up, and the victim can be seen walking with the group toward a lane near Granville and Smithe Street.

The VPD said the victim was assaulted while in the lane, and his wallet was stolen.

And it does not appear to be an isolated incident.

According to VPD Const. Tania Visintin, “Stranger attacks have been prevalent in recent weeks throughout Vancouver and this is very concerning.”

The constable said there have been 17 “random assaults” reported across the city in the last two weeks alone.

Three suspects are all described as South Asian and in their early 20s.

The first is about 5’10” with short hair and “large ears,” the VPD said. At the time of the assault, he was wearing a white T-shirt, white pants and a green jacket, and carrying a black satchel across his chest.

Police described the second man as about 5’11” with a medium build and short dark hair. He was wearing a grey hooded sweater and black pants.

The third, according to police, is about 5’9″ with curly dark brown hair, and had on a white sweater and grey sweatpants the morning of July 11.

Police are seeking witnesses, as well as anyone who may recognize the men in the video.

“This happened around the time the bars closed on Granville Street. We know there were people still out and they may have seen what happened and can identify these men,” Visintin said.

“There is no excuse for anyone to get attacked for absolutely no reason.”

29Jul

B.C. artist’s memoir illustrates his experiences of homelessness and addiction — and his way out | CBC News

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Curled up beneath the toilet in a public washroom, P.J. could smell the old urine-stained concrete floor.

He was soothed by the sound of waves crashing onto Huntington Beach, just south of Los Angeles.

A meth pipe cured his emotional baggage. 

This was home. 

For several months between 2004 and 2005, P.J. Patten was homeless and lived on the beach. Drug addiction had made him leave his family and settle for life by Tower 25, a lifeguard tower.

Now an artist living in Burnaby, B.C., Patten has titled his new graphic novel-style memoir after the tower. He says Tower 25, which reveals the challenges of trauma, isolation and becoming sober, has allowed him to process his past in hopes of inspiring greater empathy for those struggling with homelessness and addiction. 

“I was so deep in meth addiction. I just, I didn’t know what to do. I felt overwhelmed by everything and I just wanted to be away from everybody,” he said.

‘I didn’t want to feel anything’

Patten had become a full-blown drug addict by age 15.  

This partly stemmed from watching his parents divorce at a young age and often feeling isolated. 

“I was just looking for drugs because I didn’t want to feel anything … And crystal meth just did that for me,” he recalled.

After leaving home, he found the washroom near Tower 25 was a relatively safe place to sleep. He says he would often fall asleep around 11 p.m. and wake up at 4 a.m. to prevent being caught by the guards or police.

The washroom where Patten slept while he was homeless near Tower 25. (Erin Pruden)

Living in isolation was one of Patten’s biggest challenges, but it also led to much journaling and reflection, as he realized he had nobody left to blame for his situation. 

“All those emotions that I had just buried for so many years just kind of came out all at once.” he said. “I spent a lot of time screaming at the ocean when no one was there.”

Turning points

Patten says his first turning point came as he desperately searched through garbage cans looking for foil so he could smoke meth.

“At that point there was no more lying to myself about it … mentally, it was time to stop,” he said.

Sometimes Patten’s friends would offer him their place to spend a few nights. He was using meth heavily around the time this picture was taken. (Dustin Burcombe)

His path to becoming sober was draining, but one opportunity significantly changed his circumstances. 

Growing up, he had had a fascination with Buddhism. So when he saw an ad from a Buddhist retreat centre hiring people with a background in construction and art, he knew he couldn’t let it slip away.

He says he spent his last $2 at an internet cafe printing out an honest application about his life.

To his surprise, he was accepted. 

“I was so happy and so relieved, I’d actually been able to do it … I was, I guess, just in shock,” he said.

From relief to despair

But that same night, his feeling of relief turned to despair when he was caught sleeping in the washroom. Although he begged the guard to understand his situation, Patten was ordered to attend court in three weeks’ time. 

The emotions were gutting, he said, and he recalls being moments away from making a call to get drugs to ease the pain.

But he stopped himself. 

“That was the biggest turning point for me,” he said. “I can throw away everything I’ve done to get to this point because this one thing happened to me, or I can figure out what to do.”

Out of desperation for change, Patten trashed the ticket and left the beach. He later wrote a letter to a judge about his situation. The charges were dropped and his father helped pay a small fine. 

Patten explains why he trashed a ticket in his graphic memoir Tower 25. (Tower 25)

Patten ended up spending nearly 10 years at a Buddhist retreat in northern California, working in bronze casting and printing. He practised meditation and being away from the drug scene helped him become sober. 

In 2014, he met the woman who would become his wife while volunteering at a meditation centre in Whistler. They eventually moved to Burnaby and, with her encouragement, Patten began writing and illustrating Tower 25

A gesture of empathy

Embracing his Japanese heritage, Patten was inspired to create his memoir in the style of haiga, an old Japanese art form that combines images with small verses beside them. 

The “graphic memoir,” based on Patten’s journal entries while he was homeless, features a character whose face is never seen. It’s a gesture of empathy for people who have gone through something similar, or their loved ones, he says.

“If you had been through a similar experience, you could see yourself in that book,” he explains.

Patten says he is one of the lucky ones — he had friends who checked in with him — and acknowledges that addiction and homelessness are no easy escape.

He hopes his memoir encourages people to treat those struggling with compassion — and check in with them, too. Even if it just starts with a smile.  

Tower 25 is available online.

27Jul

No jail time for drug-fuelled robber who seriously injured community leader in Prince George | CBC News

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A man who pleaded guilty after a drug-fuelled robbery that left a Prince George community leader with a serious brain injury won’t serve jail time.

On Friday in Prince George Provincial Court, Marshall Schulze was sentenced to three years probation for mugging Diane Nakamura in broad daylight outside the downtown post office in October 2018.

Schulze has also been ordered to pay $1,500 to the Prince George Brain Injured Group Society.

The robbery left Nakamura, once a finalist for Prince George Citizen of the Year, on permanent disability, ending her 33 year career as a social worker. 

Still, Nakamura backed the judge’s decision to keep her assailant out of jail. 

Robber now ‘model citizen’

“Since [Schulze’s] been clean and sober, he’s just been a model citizen,” Nakamura told CBC News after the sentencing. “Sending him to jail would just unravel everything that he’s accomplished.” 

The court heard that since the robbery, Schulze had completed a lengthy drug rehabilitation program, was working full time as a carpentry framer and was committed to sobriety.

“What Marshall Schulze has accomplished is what I would have wanted for all of my clients … This is pretty much unheard of in terms of success,” Nakamura said. 

Daybreak North6:28Former social worker glad man who gave her permanent brain damage isn’t doing jail time

Diane Nakamura has had to quit her job and is living with permanent brain damage following an asault in 2018 but she says she’s glad her assailant is not being sent to jail for the attack. 6:28

During her working life, Nakamura counselled people living on the street, in jail, and in drug treatment.

She also assisted families of the victims of serial killer Cody Legebokoff, and supported the young victims of former judge David Ramsey, helping secure his conviction for sex crimes. 

Marshall Schulze robbed Nakamura in broad daylight outside Prince George’s downtown post office in 2018. Postal workers on the picket line and a passerby came to her aid. (Betsy Trumpener/CBC )

Victim ‘screamed and screamed for help’

The court heard that Schulze was supposed to be attending  court-ordered residential drug treatment near Prince George and was “intoxicated on drugs” when he robbed Nakamura.

Schulze told the court he had a “major addiction problem” after using opiates for pain control after surgery.

Nakamura said he was a “scary looking guy … visibly high on drugs” during the robbery.

Marshall Schulze was sentenced inside the Prince George courthouse for a robbery that ended Nakamura’s 33-year career as a social worker. (Betsy Trumpener/CBC )

“He tried to swing me around, he tried to head butt me, and I just screamed and screamed for help,” Nakamura told CBC News. 

Video footage played for the court showed Schulze running up behind a woman and knocking her to the cement sidewalk. 

A passerby and two postal workers picketing outside the post office came to Nakamura’s aid, tackling her assailant, and holding Schulze down until RCMP arrived.

Marshall Schulze outside the Prince George courthouse after entering a guilty plea for one count of robbery in March, 2020. (Betsy Trumpener/CBC )

Victim left with ‘no spark, no light’

During the sentencing hearing, Nakamura told Schulze  that she “didn’t deserve to be assaulted and left with a permanent brain injury. Now, I feel dead inside. No spark, no light.”

In a written impact statement, Nakamura’s husband said Schulze had “destroyed my wife’s beautiful nature. Her fun spirit has disappeared.”

The robbery conviction in Prince George was not Schulze’s first conflict with the law. 

Assailant was on probation 

In 2013, he was convicted of drug trafficking and the illegal possession of several high-powered stun guns. 

In 2018, Vancouver police arrested Schulze after reports a man was hitting people in Pigeon Park in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Schulze tried to grab a police pistol, as well as bite and spit on officers, Crown lawyer Ryan Withel told the sentencing hearing.

As a condition of his release, Schulze was ordered to travel north to Baldy Hughes Therapeutic Community and Farm, near Prince George.

Schulze got a ride to Prince George. But he never went to rehab, according to the Crown.

Withel said Schulze was on probation when he robbed Nakamura. 

“I’m forgiving you, because it’s the only way to move on,” Nakamura told Schulze before sentencing.

25Jul

Kelowna band bringing back live music with mobile bus | CBC News

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After months of gig cancellations, a Kelowna band decided to take its show on the road and bought a bus. 

Tomy Thisdale and Paul Minor, members of The Carbons, say when pandemic restrictions cancelled their touring plans, they wanted to find a way to continue playing for people. 

The pair says that since they couldn’t play shows, they instead resorted to writing and recording more music. Thisdale says after awhile they started to miss the face-to-face interaction that came with live music. 

Enter Carol the Carbon Bus — a decommissioned accessibility bus the band acquired and decided to turn into its own personal concert on wheels. 

“We’ve been pulling up to different neighbourhoods, just knocking on people’s doors and trying to revive live music,” Thisdale said in an interview for CBC’s Daybreak South.

Drummer Paul Minor pictured playing in Carol the Carbon Bus. (Dominika Lirette/CBC News)

The band purchased the bus a few months ago and has slowly been turning it into a mobile venue with a rooftop stage. 

The bus, which originally had 24 seats, now has just four to make room for all its instruments and sound equipment.  

Door-to-door performances

Thisdale says it’s fully equipped with stage lights, live sound system, solar panels and a new paint job.

He says the band mostly plays in and around the Okanagan region but, on request, would travel as far as Saskatchewan.

Thisdale says the band has found a thrill in playing door-to-door performances where it pops in to surprise people at their homes. 

“We just were knocking on doors and just asking people if they want to listen to music for like 10 minutes,” Minor said. 

Minor says they are sometimes met with apprehension during the surprise visits, but after a couple songs they always seem to get them having a good time and dancing.

He says when the band first bought the van, they had no idea when they would be able to play live gigs again due to COVID-19 restrictions. They saw the van as an opportunity to do something different and spread a little cheer during an otherwise tough year. 

“We can still have a great summer and bring smiles to people and hopefully, you know, do some rock and roll healing.” Minor said.

Daybreak South11:41Kelowna band, The Carbons, have transformed an old bus into a travelling concert venue and have been giving surprise pop-up concerts all over the city

Kelowna band, The Carbons, have transformed an old bus into a travelling concert venue and have been giving surprise pop-up concerts all over the city 11:41

22Jul

New community policing centre approved for Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant gets pushback | CBC News

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Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood is getting a new community policing centre but some residents say it sends the wrong message about how to keep a growing neighbourhood safe.

Vancouver city council approved a new community policing centre for the neighbourhood after the Mount Pleasant Business Improvement Association called for the move in response to increased population growth in the area. 

Sarah Kirby-Yung, the city councillor who introduced the motion, says a community policing centre can help bridge the gap between co-ordinating services and helping people.

“They’re very unique. They’re very independent. They’re much more proactive. They engage with the community and the programs come from the community,” said Kirby-Yung. 

Community policing centres are run in partnership by staff, volunteers and members of the Vancouver Police Department, who create crime prevention programs and initiatives tailored to address local neighbourhood concerns. 

Mount Pleasant has become an increasingly sought-after neighbourhood to live in, given it’s close to the downtown core and filled with popular cafés, shops, and restaurants.

The Mount Pleasant Business Improvement Association cites the 25 per cent growth in the neighbourhood’s population between 2011 and 2016 and says the density of the neighbourhood is poised to keep growing as new condo developments continue to take shape. 

But there have been some growing pains — like tension between business owners and residents, some of whom are living on the street, over bathroom use.

Meenakshi Mannoe, Pivot Legal’s criminalization and policing campaigner, says policing shouldn’t be the first answer when addressing social issues.

“In a community like Mount Pleasant where the population is rapidly growing, we’re going to see more social problems and problems rooted in inequality,” said Mannoe.

She also expressed concerns whether the community policing centre would be sufficiently independent from the Vancouver Police Department. 

“The concern is that we’re really inviting increased police presence into the community under the guise of the community policing centre.”

The Vancouver police have come under greater scrutiny given high-profile scandals — like the Indigenous grandfather and granddaughter who were wrongfully detained outside a Bank of Montreal in 2020. 

That incident, among others, led Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart to step down as the public face of the city’s police board, saying he could not support a department whose lack of action on systemic racism he finds “indefensible.”

Mannoe says instead of a community policing hub, the neighbourhood actually needs to think of an alternative model. This could include a low barrier, 24-hour drop in centre, more harm reduction and health programming, more public washroom access, supportive housing and other social programming. 

Kirby-Yung says Mannoe’s suggestions and a community policing centre need not be mutually exclusive. 

“I don’t think it’s an either-or, I think it’s an and. I think we need to be providing more of these services and I think they can complement each other,” she said. 

22Jul

Abbotsford church fire an arson, police say | CBC News

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The Abbotsford Police Department is investigating a suspicious fire at the Central Heights Church that took place on Wednesday night. 

Police say they arrived on scene around 8 p.m. The fire was extinguished by Abbotsford Fire Rescue and caused only minimal damage.

The church was unoccupied at the time and nobody was injured. 

The police department says patrol officers examined security footage and have identified a suspect believed to be a dark-skinned man with an average build, about 30-40 years old, five feet eight inches to five feet ten inches tall.

He was wearing a grey baseball hat, a bright yellow rain jacket, white muscle shirt, blue-green shorts with a pattern, black and white shoes and was carrying a dark brown or black backpack.

Abbotsford police are asking for witnesses, CCTV footage, and dashcam footage from the surrounding area between 7 and 9 p.m. that night.

Jesse Wilson, the communications and discipleship pastor at Central Heights Church, said that a few people driving past noticed the fire and made an effort to stop it before police arrived. 

“We hope people can stay safe when things happen like this.” 

22Jul

Are mandatory COVID-19 vaccines needed for health-care workers before a 4th wave? | CBC News

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The debate over mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for health-care workers is growing louder in Canada as more countries move forward with the controversial approach in order to safeguard health-care settings and fight the spread of more contagious variants.

Requiring vaccinations as a condition of employment in hospitals, long-term care homes and other sectors involving hands-on work with patients is not new in Canada — and experts feel it should be no different when it comes to this pandemic.

Canada lacks detailed data on the percentage of health-care workers who have been vaccinated. But more than 80 per cent of eligible Canadians have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and close to 60 per cent have two — an amazing feat, no doubt, but one that is already showing signs of tapering off.

Health-care workers were among the first to get access to COVID-19 vaccines in Canada in order to protect them and their patients from infection and prevent hospitals and long-term care homes from being overwhelmed by outbreaks.

But the question of whether they should now be required to get vaccinated to do their jobs is growing more urgent as Canada’s vaccination campaign slows, ahead of the reopening of the border to U.S. travellers and the start of school in September.

Personal support worker Michael Gellizeau gets a dose of COVID-19 vaccine from nurse practitioner Victoria Pierri at a clinic put on by the University Health Network in Toronto on Dec. 15, 2020. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“I absolutely think we should make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory in health care — I think it’s a no brainer,” said Dr. Nathan Stall, a geriatrician at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and a member of Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization.

“It’s extremely important that we have those who are caring for our most vulnerable with direct, hands-on care be fully vaccinated. There should be no ifs, ands, or buts to that.” 

Debate over mandatory vaccines in Canada

France has ordered all health-care workers to get vaccinated by Sept. 15 as the more contagious and potentially more deadly delta variant drives COVID-19 levels back up. Greece and Italy also have put similar rules in place.

The Ontario Medical Association and the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario have called for mandatory vaccines for health-care workers in Canada’s largest province, where delta is estimated to make up more than 90 per cent of latest COVID-19 cases.

But Ontario Premier Doug Ford said last week that health-care workers have a “constitutional right” to opt out of v, despite the province mandating immunization policies for long-term care home staff in order to protect vulnerable residents.

“I think it’s their constitutional right to take it or not take it,” he told reporters Thursday. “No one should be forced to do anything.”

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has also repeatedly dismissed the notion of mandatory vaccines in the province, even amending the province’s Public Health Act to remove a 100-year-old power allowing the government to force people to be vaccinated.

“These folks who are concerned about mandatory vaccines have nothing to be concerned about,” he told reporters during the Calgary Stampede last week.

WATCH | Canada lacks national standards for proof of COVID-19 vaccinations:

Canada doesn’t have national standards for proof of a COVID-19 vaccination and as a result, there’s a ‘hodgepodge’ of methods created by provinces and businesses. 1:54

Proponents of mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for health-care workers are quick to point out they’ve already been required to be vaccinated against other highly infectious diseases for decades — including some less severe than COVID-19. 

“I have to be vaccinated against hepatitis B, I have to be vaccinated against measles, and I have to do a tuberculosis test periodically, otherwise I can’t work at my hospital,” said Dr. Kashif Pirzada, an emergency physician in Toronto. 

“There’s no reason why a COVID-19 vaccination would be unconstitutional in that framework. We already require vaccinations against other diseases as a term of employment, so I don’t see why this is any different. And this is a much deadlier disease.”

‘COVID-19 is not influenza’

A recent viewpoint published in the medical journal JAMA argued that just as health-care workers should not “inadvertently spread contagious infections,” like measles and influenza, to their patients and colleagues, COVID-19 should be no exception.

An analysis in the Canadian Medical Association Journal earlier this year called for each provincial and territorial government to mandate vaccines for all private and public health-care workers because of their increased risk of catching and spreading COVID-19.

Flu shots aren’t mandated for Canadian health-care workers, and the authors of the CMAJ paper cite a 2019 case won by nurses in British Columbia against mandatory flu vaccines. But they say the same should not be true in the pandemic, because “COVID-19 is not influenza.”

The debate around mandating flu shots for Canadian health-care workers in the past may be driving the recent concerns in the pandemic, Stall said. But he argues that the case for compulsory COVID-19 vaccines is much stronger. 

“We know that this is more transmissible, the consequences at the patient level are much more severe than influenza and the disruption to both the health-care workforce and the health-care system is much more severe with COVID-19,” he said. 

“Health-care workers have a fiduciary responsibility to place the needs of their patients and those that they’re caring for first.… I don’t think that those individuals should be providing direct, hands-on care to long-term care residents and other frail and vulnerable individuals.”

WATCH | What COVID-19 vaccines mean to health-care workers on the front lines:

Humber River Hospital ER physician Dr. Tasleem Nimjee describes what the COVID-19 vaccine will mean for the health-care workers who’ve been on the front lines of the pandemic. 2:29

Raywat Deonandan, a global health epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Ottawa, says while it’s unethical to deny someone life-saving care if they have a deeply held belief against vaccines, it is ethical to refuse them a job.

“If you’re a health-care worker who is denying vaccination, well, you need to get a different job — and you have that option,” he said. 

“But for a patient, it’s probably your right, to some extent, to be skeptical about pharmaceuticals — [and] you have a right to health care while you figure that out.

“So there’s that delicate balancing act. We have to accommodate some of this, but not all of it.” 

Reasons for vaccine hesitancy 

Toronto-based pharmacologist Sabina Vohra-Miller, who co-founded Unambiguous Science and the South Asian Health Network, says that not all health-care workers should be put in the same category. 

“If you’re talking about physicians that’s one thing. But if you’re actually looking at the fuller spectrum of health-care workers it’s a different situation,” she said. “You don’t necessarily have people coming from as much either privilege or accessibility.”

Vohra-Miller says health-care workers can include personal support workers, long-term care workers and community outreach staff that could have different barriers to getting vaccinated, including education, paid sick leave or childcare.

“They’re working multiple jobs at any given time. They’re working crazy hours, just to make ends meet,” she said.

“When people think of health-care workers, they just automatically think doctors and nurses and people who have access and have all this education on vaccines and should be able to make these decisions — but that’s not necessarily the case.”

Impact on the health-care system in a 4th wave

Pirzada says if a significant proportion of health-care workers remain unvaccinated in the fall, when COVID-19 levels are expected to rise again, there could be significant impacts on the Canadian health-care system. 

“When the rates of the virus increase in the community, it’s going to start hitting health-care workers,” he said. “If let’s say 30 per cent of our workers are not vaccinated, you’re going to knock out a large portion of the workforce, right at the time when we need them, when community transmission is going to be at its highest.” 

Stall says ensuring as many health-care workers are vaccinated as possible will maintain stability in the health-care system and mitigate future outbreaks in settings linked to under-vaccinated staff, like long-term care homes, as recently seen in Burlington and Hamilton.

“We know the havoc that an individual outbreak can cause in terms of the health-care system,” he said.

“We need leadership on this issue. We need to do it now while case counts are low — before the fall, before it’s too late, when we may have outbreaks in our health-care settings.”

21Jul

‘Long COVID’ clinics expanding as thousands of British Columbians struggle with symptoms

by admin

VANCOUVER —
The number of new COVID-19 infections has dropped from its peak during the third wave, but the medical system is only now ramping up supports and medical treatment for thousands of British Columbians who continue to experience symptoms months after getting sick with the coronavirus.

Four post-COVID recovery clinics are now accepting patients in the Lower Mainland, offering teams of experts including lung specialists, psychologists, rheumatologists and physical therapists to better care for people experiencing the long-lasting effects of an illness that’s still being analyzed and unravelled. 

One of the leading doctors involved in treating “long COVID” patients says that while the multi-disciplinary approach may sound expensive, he believes it’ll actually be more cost-effective for the health-care system in the long-term.

“That’s the intention, to save a lot of money because instead of having an individual jump around from one specialist to the next in an uncoordinated way, we’re intending to do it and we’ve put these systms in place so that that care is better coordinated,” said Dr. Chris Carlsten, UBC’s head of respiratory medicine and Post-Covid Recovery Clinic lung specialist.

“People want to feel good, they want to work, they want to be productive, they want to be active … so it’s just a matter of trying to help them do that.” 

When the long-hauler clinics were first established last year, they were only taking COVID patients with the most debilitating post-infection symptoms. Since then, they have expanded and continue to grow with more funding; they are now accepting patients with a range of symptoms and severities.

The growing treatment options come as local researchers say it’s time we start changing how we think of the illness and the auto-antibody response that might be leading to the long-term symptoms.

“Initially, we thought of COVID-19 as a respiratory illness, but what we’ve learned is that this is a multi-system disease, affecting multiple organs — from the brain, heart, kidneys and liver to the gastrointestinal tract,” said Dr. Anita Palepu, UBC professor and head of the department of medicine, in a research update

SIGNIFICANT PERCENTAGE OF PATIENTS HAVE ONGOING SYMPTOMS

A precise definition and estimate of how many British Columbians could be struggling with lasting symptoms from the disease is hard to pinpoint. The symptoms are a topic of considerable debate in the medical community, and even the rough estimate that a third of people who’ve had COVID will have symptoms lasting three months after their initial infections is imprecise at best. 

Symptoms can include typical hallmarks of COVID-19 (coughing, tightness in the chest, difficulty breathing), brain fog, fatigue and difficulty concentrating; loss of taste and smell may be lingering effects, but aren’t the focus of the recovery clinics.

A referral from a physician is required for care

Even with a conservative estimate, some 40,000 British Columbians are likely still experiencing symptoms from their infection months later, with varying impacts on their quality of life. Carlsten points out that the one-third ballpark estimate is for those who’ve had symptoms. 

“There’s so many people that are infected that are not symptomatic at all, some of whom don’t even know they were infected,” he said.

Some people who weren’t seriously sick have had their symptoms stick around for a year or more, he added, while others who’ve been hospitalized have made full recoveries, so there’s no clear pattern about who will be grappling with the symptoms long-term.

LIVING WITH LONG COVID

While some who technically have long COVID may see their lingering symptoms as little more than an annoyance, for others, the consequences have been debilitating.

Vancouver resident Katy McLean had been very physically and socially active before catching the virus last September, but the 43 year-old now needs a walker and had to stop working and go on disability support.

“I had what seemed like fatigue and a head cold at the beginning, then lost my sense of smell on day nine,” she told CTV News, explaining that while her initial illness improved after a month, she relapsed in the spring and spent three months unable to get out of bed.

“I compare it to a bad hangover when you’re just dizzy, you’re sick, you’re so tired, you can’t do anything – you can’t think straight,” she said. “You feel foggy and cognitively impaired.”

Describing her illness as like a rollercoaster, McLean says her worst days come with shortness of breath and heart palpitations. She’s also developed chronic fatigue syndrome and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), which has turned her feet a purplish colour and prevents her from standing for more than a few minutes, even if she had the energy to stand longer.

“It’s isolating,” said McLean, crediting her live-in partner for supporting her through her illness.

“I could’ve never imagined 10.5 months later I’d still be in this situation with my mobility impaired and on disability, unable to work, unable to socialize.”

The Provincial Health Services Authority now has resources for patients and doctors alike to research what medical professionals have been able to learn about the long-term effects of COVID-19. 

GETTING HELP

The impacts of isolation and de facto lockdowns have affected everyone, whether they’ve stifled personal relationships and connections or left people feeling depressed and stressed out. But, Carlsten says mood disorders shouldn’t be confused with the low energy and brain fog so many long-haulers are experiencing.

“It’s not just depression and mood. A lot of the manifestations of COVID couldn’t be explained by that at all,” said the lung specialist, pointing to a CT scan of COVID-ravaged lungs, predominantly white from damage and scarring.

“You can imagine how if your lungs are so affected by that, it’s so easily visible, what that can do to your oxygen levels and when you have oxygen levels that are compromised, it’s not a stretch to think you can’t think clearly,” Carlsten said.

While the PHSA’s website indicates the clinics will only treat people with a confirmed COVID diagnosis or positive serology test, the practitioners are more lenient, acknowledging many people may have self-isolated with symptoms without getting tested, particularly when testing was in short supply.

“Admittedly, that has been a difficult question for us, because you can imagine the mountain it opens,” said Carlsten. “We’ve been working with the government to get the resources for that, and more recently they’ve been forthcoming. So, as those resources come, we’ll expand the eligibility and we certainly don’t believe a positive test is the only way to establish that you’ve had COVID.”

McLean is grateful there are more supports and hopes there will be more awareness about a condition that’s misunderstood and often unrecognized by people who haven’t experienced it themselves.

“There’s not a lot of attention on this because a lot of us are off into the shadows,” she said. “We’re not in the world anymore, we’re not participating in socializing or the workforce or anything, we’re just at home trying to get better.” 

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