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Posts Tagged "provinces"

10Apr

B.C. First Nations say Ottawa will match province’s $300 social assistance supplement on reserves | CBC News

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First Nations leaders in B.C. say Ottawa has agreed to match the provincial commitment to provide people on social assistance with an added $300 a month due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Funding for on-reserve income assistance flows from Indigenous Services Canada, while that money comes from the province for people who live off-reserve. 

Cheryl Casimer, a member of the First Nations Summit political executive, said Indigenous Services agreed to match the provincial emergency benefits after meetings with the First Nations Leadership Council. 

“If it’s a benefit being afforded to one group, just because of residency, then it should be afforded to the rest. So we were able to get that commitment from the regional director,” she said.

B.C. announced last week the supplement for people on income assistance and disability and said it will be distributed for the months of April, May and June. The $300 additional payment will first appear on the next round of provincial cheques, distributed on April 22. 

B.C. Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction Shane Simpson said the additional funding will be added to cheques automatically, so there’s no need for people to apply for it. People receiving Employment Insurance or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit are not eligible for the provincial supplement.

‘It’s really good news’ 

Corrina Leween, the elected chief of the Cheslatta Carrier Nation, said it isn’t clear when the funds from Indigenous Services Canada will be distributed to bands but she said she welcomes the matched funding for membership. 

“It’s really good news and it’s really appreciated as well,” she said. 

Cheslatta Carrier Nation Chief Corrina Leween (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

She said as a semi-isolated community in northern B.C., the additional funds should help reduce the number of trips people need to make in and out of the community by enabling residents on social assistance to stockpile more of the food and necessities they need. 

Leween said the main focus of leadership has been on encouraging people to stay home and to make sure elders and other people more susceptible to the virus have what they need at home. 

“Every two weeks we’re delivering hampers to our elders and to our vulnerable members,” she said. 

“So if we’re able to continue to concentrate on that and maybe increase that support — given that the social assistance recipients would get more funding to do what they need to do, then that would help for sure.”

Indigenous Services Canada did not respond to a request for comment before time of publishing. 

As of Thursday, there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in a B.C. First Nation.

On Monday, Indigenous Services Canada said it was aware of 35 cases on reserves and among Inuit — four in Saskatchewan, 11 in Ontario and 20 in Quebec. 

2Apr

New emergency supports for province’s most vulnerable

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To ensure B.C.’s most vulnerable – including people on income or disability assistance and low-income seniors – do not encounter additional barriers during the COVID-19 crisis, the Province is implementing a series of temporary supports and supplements.

“We are putting in place measures that complement the federal crisis measures to support our most vulnerable populations and ensure they do not fall deeper into poverty as a result of COVID-19,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “This is a stressful time for everyone, but for those struggling to put food on the table at the best of times, it is important that we ensure there are no additional barriers to get what they need to keep themselves and their families safe and healthy.” 

For people in B.C. currently receiving income assistance or disability assistance, the Province will temporarily exempt federal employment insurance benefits, including the new $2,000 Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). These payments will be fully exempted for the next three months so people receiving income assistance and disability assistance in B.C. will benefit from these new emergency federal support programs, without any reductions to their monthly assistance payments.  

For everyone on income assistance or disability assistance who is not eligible for the emergency federal support programs, including the CERB, the Province will provide an automatic $300-monthly COVID-19 crisis supplement for the next three months. This supplement will also be provided to low-income seniors who receive the B.C. Senior’s Supplement and recipients of income assistance or disability assistance who reside in special care facilities.

With the current provincewide suspension of BC Transit and Translink bus fares, the Province will also provide all BC Bus Pass Program users receiving income assistance and disability assistance with the $52 Transportation Supplement for the duration of the fare suspension. This will be included on the next cheque and for each subsequent month while the fare suspension remains in place.

Existing Compass passes under the BC Bus Pass Program will not be cancelled and will remain active during this time, so people will not need to reapply for bus passes in the future. This will also ensure people can still use SkyTrain and SeaBus services that are still charging fares. There is no change for eligible low-income seniors who will continue to have an active bus pass provided by the BC Bus Pass Program.

These interim measures further complement government’s $5-billion COVID-19 Action Plan to provide income supports, tax relief and direct funding for people, businesses and services.

To further support vulnerable people, the Province recently provided a $3-million emergency grant to Food Banks BC to distribute among food banks provincewide. The grant will support immediate needs to buy and distribute food, pay employees and cover other costs essential to the delivery of their food programs.

Recognizing that vulnerable people in different circumstances face distinct risks, the provincial Vulnerable Population Working Group continues to identify, assess and address the immediate challenges faced by five specific groups – people living on the street, people experiencing homelessness living in encampments, shelter residents, tenants of private single-residence occupancies and tenants in social and supportive housing.

This working group includes representatives from the ministries of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Social Development and Poverty Reduction, Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Mental Health and Addictions, Children and Family Development, Health, Public Safety and Solicitor General, Finance, Attorney General, as well as Emergency Management BC, the City of Vancouver, the Office of the Provincial Health Officer, BC Centre for Disease Control, First Nations Health Authority, Provincial Health Services Authority, regional health authorities, BC Housing and Community Living British Columbia.

Reducing poverty is a shared priority between government and the BC Green Party caucus, and is part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.

Learn More:

Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction: www.gov.bc.ca/sdpr

For non-medical information and supports, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/COVID19
Or call 1 888 COVID19 between 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m., seven days a week

21Mar

Government acting to protect province’s most vulnerable during COVID-19 crisis

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As British Columbians work to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, the Province is taking swift action to protect vulnerable people, including those experiencing homelessness, in communities around British Columbia.

Initial actions include:

  • a ban on evictions for non-payment of rent in BC Housing-funded buildings;
  • the development of distinct protocols and identification of sites to support isolation for vulnerable people experiencing homelessness – sheltered or unsheltered – and those in private single room occupancy (SROs) and social housing buildings;
  • sustaining service providers through continued payments to ensure they can pay their staff and operating costs; and
  • centralized procurement for critical supplies needed by frontline providers, including gloves and cleaning products.

“Frontline workers are working tirelessly to ensure that vulnerable residents are protected across the province, recognizing the significant added risks that vulnerable people face in the context of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “We are committed to making sure these frontline workers have the support they need to do their job – whether that’s in the form of safe spaces for people who need isolation or personal protective equipment for staff working in the field. We are all in this together.”

Recognizing that vulnerable people in different circumstances face distinct risks, a provincial Vulnerable Population Working Group is working to identify, assess and address the immediate challenges faced in particular by five groups – people living on the street, people experiencing homelessness living in encampments, shelter residents, tenants of private SROs and tenants in social and supportive housing buildings.

This working group includes representatives from the ministries of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Social Development and Poverty Reduction, Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Mental Health and Addictions, Children and Family Development, Health, as well as Emergency Management BC, the City of Vancouver, the Office of the Provincial Health Officer, local health authorities, BC Housing and Community Living BC.

Isolation protocols are being developed in partnership with local governments and health authorities based on the needs of vulnerable residents in each region. While in some situations self-isolation may be possible within a unit, additional locations have been identified throughout the province for those situations where off-site isolation of one or more people is required. In addition, recognizing that many providers have identified difficulty in sourcing necessary medical and cleaning supplies, BC Housing is now procuring personal protective equipment needed by frontline workers on a central basis and is distributing them directly to housing providers.

“While all of us are feeling the effects of the COVID-19 crisis, there is no doubt that our most vulnerable populations including the homeless and the working poor are disproportionately affected,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “We are working together with our partners at every level of government and in the social services sector to find safe and efficient ways to provide supports to the people who need them the most as quickly as possible.” 

Recognizing that many residents may face challenges in making rent payments as a result of COVID-19, BC Housing has implemented a moratorium on eviction for non-payment of rent in their directly managed properties and is also working with non-profit housing providers around the province to do the same. In addition, the process of applying for a rent reduction is being streamlined for tenants who have lost income as a result of COVID-19, including changing the rules to remove the requirement for proof that the decrease in income is permanent.

People experiencing homelessness often have higher rates of health concerns, and as a result could be at greater risk if exposed to COVID-19. For that reason, enhanced screening and cleaning protocols are in place at residential facilities to reduce the potential that this virus can spread within the building and beyond. To support partners’ efforts, BC Housing is also working closely with the Ministry of Health, the provincial health officer, local health authorities, the BC Non-Profit Housing Association and the Aboriginal Housing Management Association to ensure non-profit providers can protect their guests and residents. This includes providing training and support in encouraging social distancing, best practices in building cleaning and maintenance, identification of on- and off-site isolation spaces, and access to testing and other services.  

Learn More:

For more information on BC Housing’s eviction and rent adjustment policy, visit: https://www.bchousing.org/publications/Covid-19-Bulletin-for-Housing-Providers-Eviction-and-Rent-Adjustment-Notification-March-18th-2020.pdf

A backgrounder follows.

23Aug

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Mike Bell /

PNG

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

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

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

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

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

dbramham@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/bramham_daphne

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28Mar

Some medical waits shrink, but B.C. still has long waits compared to several other provinces

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Health Minister Adrian Dix tours a hip and knee program replacement program on Vancouver Island last year.


Don Craig | B.C. Government / PNG

B.C. performs worse than several other provinces when it comes to meeting recommended waiting times for various medical procedures, including cancer radiation therapy, a federal report released today shows.

Benchmarks are defined as “evidence-based goals each province or territory strives to meet.” They reflect the maximum waiting time that medical experts consider appropriate to wait for a particular procedure.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information report shows that while there are glimmers of improvement in some categories, B.C. generally lags behind a handful of other provinces.

For hip replacements, for example, 67 per cent of patients got their surgery in B.C. within the recommended six months in 2018, compared to 61 per cent in 2016. The national average in 2018, however, was 75 per cent. And in Ontario, 84 per cent of patients got surgery within the time period; in Quebec, 80 per cent.

Long waiting times are generally a function of operating rooms being available for surgeons and other resources like funding, hospital beds, nurses for the operating rooms, recovery and ward beds.

For knee replacements, 59 per cent of B.C. residents got the surgery within the six-month recommended time. That was an improvement over 47 per cent in 2016, but again, lower than the national average of 69 per cent.

For cataract surgery, 64 per cent of B.C. residents got the cataract removal procedure within the recommended wait of four months for high-risk patients. That was slightly worse than in 2016 when it was 66 per cent of patients. The federal average in 2018 was 70 per cent.

For procedures that are especially time-sensitive, B.C. was near the bottom.

For hip fracture repairs, it is recommended that patients wait no longer than 48 hours. In 2018, 85 per cent of B.C. patients got surgery within the recommended time; the national statistic was 88 per cent.  Alberta was tops at 94 per cent meeting the benchmark. Only Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island had longer waiting times than B.C. on this measure.

On radiation therapy, B.C. had the worst ranking with 93 per cent of patients getting treatment within the benchmark of 28 days. The other provinces reported that 95 to 100 per cent of patients were treated within 28 days.

The B.C. Health ministry says on its website that the number of patients waiting for radiation in 2017/18 rose to a high of 467 and the number of cancer patients who got radiation therapy in 2017 declined substantially to 10,663, from about 13,000 from 2015. It is unclear if far fewer patients required radiation or whether B.C. Cancer can’t offer it to as many patients as in prior years.

In an emailed statement, Health Minister Adrian Dix said the report shows B.C. is on “the right track” to improving surgical care, especially for case types that have the longest waiting times.

“We are seeing improvements throughout the health authorities. For example, Island Health’s rate for hip replacements within the benchmark went from 45 per cent in 2016 to 49 per cent in 2017 and 66 per cent in 2018. The rate for knee replacements was even more stunning: In 2016, 29 per cent; in 2017, 32 per cent and in 2018, 57 per cent.

“We know there is more work to do (and) our surgical and diagnostic strategy is not a one-time effort. It is a multi-year plan that is supported with ongoing targeted funding of $75 million starting in 2018-19, and increasing to $100 million in 2019-20,” Dix said, noting that targeted funding should ensure that other surgeries, besides the ones benchmarked, don’t fall behind.

Bacchus Barua, associate director of health policy studies at the conservative think-tank, Fraser Institute, said the CIHI reports shows that many British Columbians still do not receive their treatments within “remarkably long pan-Canadian benchmarks.

“Our own annual survey of waiting times reveals that while the total wait time (between referral from a family doctor to treatment) across 12 specialties has fallen in B.C. between 2016 and 2018, last year’s 23.2-week median wait is nevertheless more than twice as long as the 10.4 week wait time in 1993.

“Wait times are not benign inconveniences. They can, and do, have a real impact on patients’ lives,” he said.

 

pfayerman@postmedia.com

Twitter: @MedicineMatters




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