Everybody has a story. The Existence Project uses storytelling to build a community of empathy, understanding and belonging for everyone.
“My story is one of hardcore generational abuse and generational alcoholism and systemic abuse,” said Kym Hines, an Existence Project storyteller. “The stigma is so great for us, but I did survive. It’s amazing where I am now and how I can connect with the community and bring people together by telling my story.”
Marko Curuvija, founder of The Existence Project, and his team bring storytelling workshops to downtown service providers, schools and organizations in Victoria to help people build connection and understanding between marginalized communities and the public.
“The dialogue we have challenges common misconceptions of homelessness, addiction and mental illness,” Curuvija said. “We support storytellers who have a desire to share their experiences in a wider forum with training and community. The storytellers have lived through it and their experiences can help others understand why homelessness happens to people.”
The Existence Project is one of the first recipients of the Province’s new Homelessness Community Action Grants. Launched in June 2019, the B.C. government has provided $6 million, distributed through the Social Planning and Research Council of BC (SPARC BC), to help community-based organizations address homelessness locally. Organizations can apply for up to $50,000. The Existence Project received $30,000.
“The Existence Project represents a necessary shift to a more people-first approach to breaking the cycle of poverty,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “By providing support to local groups and organizations through our Homelessness Community Action Grants, we are building awareness and seeing diverse ways of addressing various root causes of homelessness.”
The Existence Project has piloted workshops in middle schools and high schools for grades 7 to 12. It brings students and storytellers who experienced adversity in their youth together, so students and educators have an opportunity to connect with an individual’s personal experience, instead of just citing facts and figures.
“The goal of this project is to change the way people relate in this city,” Curuvija explained. “From a safe space, where people can express their vulnerability, we look at hard topics, things we relate to with shame and judgment, and see how that can transform individually and societally. Storytelling is a bridge between ‘us’ and ‘them.’
“Adolescence is a critical time to reach at-risk youth who may be experiencing social isolation. Schools can be a place to disrupt this cycle of addiction and mental illness from the beginning and can result in one less person coming in and out of street life.”
The Homelessness Community Action Grants are part of TogetherBC, British Columbia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy. To date, 11 community-based projects have received funding with the goal of increasing awareness and understanding of homelessness in youth, seniors and Indigenous women and youth, and understanding addictions and recovery.
Amy Amantea tuned in to the English-language federal leaders’ debate with modest hope there would be at least some discussion of issues relevant to disabled Canadians.
The first half of the campaign had passed with barely a reference, even from the party that had delivered a historic achievement in national disability policy. Earlier this year, the Liberals made good on a 2015 campaign promise when the Accessible Canada Act received royal assent, marking the first time any government had enacted accessibility legislation at the federal level.
The government estimates one in five Canadians over the age of 15 is disabled, and Amantea, who is legally blind, hoped leaders would use the Oct. 7 debate to address some of the many issues they face. But those hopes faded as the debate progressed, giving way instead to doubts about how Canada’s disabled residents would fare after the Oct. 21 election.
“We have a lot of very unique needs and circumstances in our community that don’t get addressed,” Amantea said in a telephone interview from Vancouver. “Just a nod, just a mention would have been kind of nice, but it was not to be.”
Amantea said that relative silence has persisted into the final week of the campaign, giving rise to concerns throughout Canada’s disabled community. Many fear that parties who fail to make mention of key issues facing disabled Canadians while courting votes may prove even more dismissive once those votes have been cast.
They point to party platforms and public pledges, most of which make scant mention of either the Accessible Canada Act or disability-specific measures on issues such as infrastructure, health and affordable housing.
The Liberals response to questions on disability policy largely focused on past achievements. Spokesman Joe Pickerill did offer some future plans, including doubling the disability child benefit, establishing a $40-million-per-year national fund meant to help disabled Canadians find work, and simplifying the process veterans use to access disability benefits.
The Green party did not respond to request for comment, and the People’s Party of Canada said its platform contained “no policy related to disabled persons.”
The NDP did not provide comment to The Canadian Press, but made several commitments to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act in a letter sent to an Ontario-based disability advocacy group.
The act, while widely acknowledged as a significant milestone, was also broadly criticized by nearly a hundred grass-roots organizations across the country as too weak to be truly effective. Such critiques continued even after the government agreed to adopt some Senate amendments sought by the disability groups, who hoped future governments would continue to build on the new law.
Only the NDP agreed to do so when approached by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, which contacted all major parties in July.
“The Liberals hailed this bill as a historical piece of legislation. But without substantial amendments, it is yet another in a long line of Liberal half-measures,” reads the NDP’s response. “New Democrats are committed to ensuring that C-81 actually lives up to Liberal party rhetoric.”
The Conservatives, too, pledged to “work closely with the disability community to ensure that our laws reflect their lived realities.” Spokesman Simon Jefferies also noted party members pushed to strengthen the act but saw their amendments voted down by the government.
The vagueness of these commitments troubles Gabrielle Peters, a wheelchair-user and writer.
“Canada’s approach to accessibility has been to grant it as a gift they give us rather than a right we deserve,” Peters said. “Now that we have the ACA, the concern is that the broader public and the government think the issue is resolved when this law is, at best, a beginning.”
Other disabled voters expressed concerns about the handful of relevant promises that have been put forward on the campaign trail. In addition to pledging expanded eligibility for the disability tax credit, the Conservatives have said they would implement a $50-million national autism strategy focusing on research and services for children. The NDP and Greens have followed suit with similar proposals and larger pots of cash.
While widely lauded among parent-led advocacy groups, some autistic adults view the proposals with skepticism.
Alex Haagaard, who is autistic and uses a wheelchair, said that while much modern disability policy including the ACA tends to apply a social lens, discussion of autism is still framed through the outmoded medical model that positions the disability as an ailment to be cured rather than a part of a person’s identity.
Haagaard said action is clearly needed to help parents seeking supports for their children and teachers working to integrate autistic students into their classrooms, but said current attitudes at the heart of the campaign rhetoric are troubling.
A national strategy, Haagaard said, also risks undermining the goal of broader inclusion for other disabled populations.
“That is counter to the goals of disability justice to silo autism as this individual condition that warrants this level of attention compared to other disabilities,” Haagaard said.
Like Amantea, Peters felt let down by the leaders debates, citing the prevalence of discussion around medical assistance in dying over other issues that affect disabled people. The subject is polarizing, with many advocacy groups and individuals asserting such legislation devalues the lives of disabled people and places them at greater risk.
Such a narrow focus, Peters said, shows all parties’ failure to reckon with or address the diverse, complex needs of an overlooked demographic.
“What strikes me as missing in policy and in this election is us,” she said. “Disabled people. The not inspirational, not motivational, not middle class, not white, disabled people of this country. In other words — most of us.”
A confusing trip to the advance polls has a Vancouver Island woman worried that others with mobility issues could be discouraged from voting.
Margo Bok ’s voter card said she could cast her ballot at a local church in the advance polls, or at a middle school on election day.
But Bok, who lives in the riding of Esquimalt–Saanich–Sooke, spotted a problem: the ballot card said both sites had no wheelchair access and provided a number to discuss other options.
She hoped to cast her ballot with her mother, Kathleen, at Esquimalt United Church on Friday. Bok, 56, has limited mobility due to cerebral palsy and her mother, 84, uses a walker.
“There was no place for me to safely take out the walker close to the church, because there’s no place to park temporarily,” Bok said.
“So we didn’t vote there.”
Instead, Bok and her mother drove about eight kilometres to an Elections Canada office in Victoria. They found a disabled parking spot and voted.
Bok says both the church and Rockheights Middle School, the election day polling station, have been used in previous elections. She’s not sure why both were listed on her voter card as inaccessible for wheelchair users but worries that could turn those with limited mobility away from voting.
“I think having something like that on the card itself scares off a lot of people,” she said.
In an email, Elections Canada spokesperson Andrea Marantz said both polling stations have functional ramps and are, in fact, wheelchair accessible.
In this case, the ramps were steeper than the 4.8-degree incline Elections Canada has deemed acceptable for a polling station. That’s why the card said it was not wheelchair accessible.
These are often ramps at older buildings that people with mobility issues may already be familiar with and feel comfortable using, Marantz said.
In most cases, the confusion can be cleared up with a quick call to the number on the card — and Elections Canada wants to ensure everyone who wants to vote has the opportunity to, Marantz said.
“In this case, the voter would have learned that the locations are accessible,” Marantz said. “In cases where they are not, other arrangements can be made for the disabled voter.”
Polling stations must meet list of criteria
Paul Gilbert, spokesman for the B.C. Disability Caucus, said he was also told by Elections Canada the locations are technically accessible — but the slope on the wheelchair accessible ramp is too steep by the election agency’s standards, so the sites were deemed inaccessible on voter cards.
According to Elections Canada, polling stations must meet a list of 38 criteria, several of which are mandatory, to be suitable as a polling station.
Mandatory criteria include having a level access to the entrance and having the voting room on the same level as the entrance.
Having an exterior pathway free of a long slope or steep incline is not mandatory.
Bok said she was glad to sort out the issue early when she had the time to drive to the Elections Canada office to vote.
For voters with limited mobility who don’t look at their cards before election day, she worries the message could prove confusing for those who don’t call the listed number.
“I just hope that people aren’t dissuaded from voting and get the message out that there’s other ways to vote that is not putting the burden on them to go out of their way,” she said.
VANCOUVER – With one week to go before the federal election, both the Liberal and Conservative parties say their campaign signs are going missing in the Vancouver South riding.
Conservative candidate Wai Young’s campaign claims more than 30 per cent of their lawn signs have been stolen in the riding. In an emailed news release, Young called the alleged thefts “hurtful and dangerous.”
“I worry about our democracy,” Young said, while a lawyer for the Young campaign, implied the Liberal campaign or its supporters were responsible, without providing proof.
Young’s campaign has not responded to requests for comment from CTV News to further explain that claim or back it up with evidence.
The riding’s Liberal candidate, Harjit Sajjan, who beat Young in the riding in 2015, strongly denied that any of his supporters are responsible for vandalism or theft of other candidates’ signs.
“I find it very disappointing that Wai Young’s campaign is making baseless accusations on us,” said Sajjan outside his campaign office Monday.
“Especially since some of our signs have been stolen.”
Both campaigns provided CTV News Vancouver with security camera footage they say shows people stealing their signs.
In what appears to be home surveillance video provided by Young’s campaign, a car can be seen pulling up outside a house after dark. The passenger exits the vehicle and removes a small sign from the lawn in front of the home.
The video is timestamped Oct. 9 at 11:55 p.m., but it’s difficult to see the name on the sign. Nothing in the video, which appears to have been edited to remove the moment the person pulls out the sign, indicates who the alleged perpetrator might be or his or her motive.
The video provided by the Sajjan campaign is also recorded after dark and shows someone approach a large sign on foot, struggling for a moment to remove it from its base, before carrying it down the street over their head.
In their news release, Young’s campaign says it has reported sign thefts to Elections Canada.
The Sajjan campaign says it is documenting each incident and plans to formally complain to Elections Canada at a later date, but stopped short of blaming any specific campaign or individuals.
Vaping products are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid solution to create an aerosol and typically contains nicotine or THC, the active psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Ranta Images / iStock/Getty Images plus
KELOWNA — A British Columbia school board says it has “serious concerns” about the risk of vaping and is asking all levels of government to take action.
In an example of how school districts are grappling with the new products amid shifting regulatory frameworks, the Central Okanagan School District outlined in a letter to parents on Friday how it is working to curb the use of e-cigarettes by students.
Since May, the school district says it has met with local municipal governments to encourage the development of bylaws to prevent advertising and targeting sales to minors.
It also says it supports proposed new provincial regulations, and the school board voted to write to local federal candidates asking how, if elected, they would address the “serious danger” posed by the electronic devices.
The board specifically asked how candidates would address the marketing of vaping products to children.
Vaping products are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid solution to create an aerosol and typically contains nicotine or THC, the active psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, but Health Canada has warned people who vape to monitor themselves for symptoms of pulmonary illness.
“The Central Okanagan School District continues to have serious concerns about the impacts of vaping on human health,” the letter from Superintendent Kevin Kaardal says to parents.
School staff are focusing education on middle school students and will continue to enforce a “no-vaping zone” on school property, it says.
School principals have been instructed to confiscate any vapour products they see on campus.
“If staff see vaping products on school property, they may confiscate them and turn them over to the RCMP,” the letter says.
In B.C., the rules around the sale of vapour products are the same as cigarettes and it is against the law to sell to someone under the age of 19.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said this month that a plan will be released in “the coming weeks” to deal with regulatory change and suggested licences would be required for vendors to sell the products.
The Central Okanagan School District isn’t alone in trying to address teen vaping.
The Sooke school district said vaping is becoming an “epidemic” among teens, ahead of an information session it held in May.
In August, the Vancouver school district issued information handouts to teachers and parents.
“Teachers are in a unique position to provide unbiased information about the adverse health effects of vaping to students and their families,” the package for teachers says.
The parents’ handout says the long-term health effects of vaping remain unknown.
“As caregivers, you can connect and discuss issues around vaping products with your child,” it says.
Two teenagers filed a lawsuit in the B.C. Supreme Court Sept. 30 against popular vape brand Juul alleging they suffered “adverse health conditions” after using the company’s e-cigarettes beginning in 2018.
The space features adaptive equipment such as a wheelchair-accessible “we-go-round.” The park has double-wide ramps, which allows children in wheelchairs to get into it.
“Creating spaces where residents of all ages and abilities can enjoy active play together is at the centre of our vision to advance as a thriving, healthy community where everyone feels welcome,” said Mayor Doug McCallum in a release.
Such a great morning for <a href=”https://twitter.com/CTJumpstart?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@CTJumpstart</a>’s launch of their Inclusive Playground in <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Surrey?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Surrey</a> yesterday!<br><br>The playground was built with universal <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/accessibility?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#accessibility</a> in mind. Check it out at Unwin Park at 13313 68th Ave!<br>🏃♀️<a href=”https://t.co/wMDVgTcUc6″>https://t.co/wMDVgTcUc6</a> <a href=”https://t.co/OlAt8Ig6tm”>pic.twitter.com/OlAt8Ig6tm</a>
Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, and Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, have issued the following statement in recognition of Homelessness Action Week, Oct. 13 to Oct. 19:
“Homelessness is a complex issue causing deep and lasting impacts on the lives of too many people in B.C. We see it every day on our streets and in encampments that pop up in our communities. It can also be invisible — people sleeping on couches or staying in harmful relationships for shelter. It is personal stories of hardship and struggle, but it is also the result of system failures, impossibly high rents, barriers to support and poverty.
“Throughout B.C., community organizations and people with lived experience of homelessness have been raising their voices for years. And for too long, they were left with little support to address a growing problem.
“By proclaiming Oct. 13 to 19 Homelessness Action Week in B.C., the Province acknowledges the tireless work of organizations and advocates to meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness. We hope to increase awareness and empathy, and encourage more people to get involved with local organizations and solutions. As a government, we’re committed to building on the successes we have seen responding to homelessness with proactive and preventative initiatives to stop homelessness before it happens.
“The new Office of Homelessness Coordination is working across government and with community partners to deliver a co-ordinated response to homelessness that is based on prevention and, if it does occur, an immediate response and stability so that it only occurs once. In everything we do, we are building a culture of empathy and putting people first.
“We’ve made historic housing investments. Through our Rapid Response to Homelessness program and BuildingBC: Supportive Housing program, we are building 4,700 supportive homes over 10 years for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. In just over two years, we have opened 2,000 supportive homes, with more than 800 more in progress. Twenty-nine municipalities have partnered with us so far to help people and improve the overall health of their communities. In addition, government is funding tens of thousands of new affordable rental units through our provincial housing plan, Homes for BC.
“These new supportive houses do more than put a roof over people’s heads. They provide 24/7 staffing and support services so help people can get the help they need. Preventing the reoccurrence of homelessness requires a strong foundation of supports and services, with a focus on the key areas of poverty reduction, mental health and addictions support, and more accessible affordable housing.
“The beginning of this work is laid out in two strategies that we released earlier this year: TogetherBC: British Columbia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, and A Pathway to Hope: A roadmap for making mental health and addictions care better for people in British Columbia.
“TogetherBC outlines programs and policies across government that will lift people up and out of poverty — and stay there — by removing barriers, creating social inclusion and continuing to focus on reconciliation.
“A Pathway to Hope lays out the first steps to turn the corner on the overdose crisis and create a sustainable system of supports for providers and people receiving care. We are helping supportive recovery homes become safer spaces for vulnerable people by increasing the daily user fee rates for the first time in 10 years and updating the Community Care and Assisted Living Act to support care options and add protection for the people receiving care.
“We are also investing in local solutions so local organizations have the resources and tools to continue to make meaningful change in communities.
“$10 million in provincial grants will service the sustainability of existing rent banks and create a provincewide system to help people throughout B.C. We are helping communities create local plans and projects for homelessness and poverty reduction through a $6-million grant for Homelessness Community Action grants and $5 million for local government poverty reduction projects and plans. We have also provided $3.5 million for local overdose prevention projects to help communities tackle the overdose crisis on the ground.
“The best way to tackle the complex issue of homelessness is through teamwork. Over the past two years, the Province has been stepping up to become the partner that community organizations need to continue to make real change. We look forward to a future home for everyone.”
Having dusted the Bahamas beach sand off his feet, Bryan Baeumler is set to share home-improvement advice—and life lessons—at home shows across Canada as he meets fans of his TV shows who are eager to find out more about the right way to do renos and get the inside scoop on Island of Bryan.
Baeumler, who has spent the better part of the last 18 months leading the renovation of a run-down resort on South Andros Island in the beautiful Bahamas, will have new insights to share when he appears on the HGTV Main Stage at the Vancouver Fall Home Show.
While Baeumler always recounts his history when appearing at home shows—how he came to be a contractor and a celebrity—he also takes time to talk about “real value” in homes.
“I like to emphasize efficiency and longevity versus the cosmetics and shiny things,” he says. “It’s important to prioritize capital and expenditures on items that will decrease the operating and maintenance costs and put real value into the home [in the] long term.”
Choosing upgrades such as insulation spray foam over conventional insulation and air sealing the attic will all contribute to making a home more energy efficient and moving it closer to net-zero status, says Baeumler.
“This means you’re not only saving money every month, it’s a feature you can sell when you sell your home,” he says.
Homeowners tend to focus on indoor projects in fall, and kitchens and bathrooms often top the to-do list. While DIY-ers can tackle basic tasks like painting or adding a tile backsplash, Baeumler says it’s important to know your own skill level and interest.
“If people are willing to take the time to learn when it comes to things like installing hardwood or floor tiles, and have the interest, anyone can learn it,” he says, but cautions, “If you lose interest early in a project or aren’t interested in spending hours bent over on your knees installing tile or hardwood, then those are good jobs to bring in the professionals.” For plumbing, electrical, heating and air conditioning and structural work it’s essential to hire licensed trades, he adds.
Baeumler’s own favourite reno projects are older homes with structural issues. “I like playing detective and digging through the layers to find out what’s wrong and then come up with a solution,” he says.
On the island, when the material you ordered doesn’t show up or something is broken, you have no choice but to accept it, change your plan and move on.
Fans of his TV shows know that Baeumler is a stickler for a clean job site.
“It doesn’t matter the size of the project: a clean site is safer and looks professional. It’s more organized and you can find your tools and materials. Put the tools back where you got them from and pick up the garbage. It’s the easiest part of the job, but it seems most difficult for some people. If you don’t maintain a clean site a reno is going to be more stressful than if you are organized,” he says.
As a regular speaker at home shows, Baeumler has learned over the years that a question-and-answer session quickly indicates the direction the audience wants to go. “I take their lead. It’s the best way to connect with people,” he says.
At the Vancouver Fall Home Show, he anticipates many questions about the Island of Bryan, the series that drew in so many viewers the first four episodes were rated as the most-watched individual episodes of any program on HGTV in more than 10 years.
With a second series now confirmed to premiere in early 2020, the show will continue to chronicle the adventures of Bryan and Sarah Baeumler and their four children as they rebuild, restore and open Caerula Mar for business—a renovation the Baeumlers initially thought would take about six months.
“You have to go in with optimism. It was an aggressive target. But we found there was a lot more work than initially anticipated—which is the case with a lot of jobs,” he says. Renovations aside, the resort’s opening date also had to sync with the hurricane season.
“If that date is missed, then there’s no option but to wait for the next season. The only thing worse than not opening when you wanted to is opening when you’re not ready,” says the self-confessed perfectionist.
Bryan and Sarah Baeumler fell in love with South Andros Island and the Bahamian people when they bought the beachfront resort. Now, Baeumler says the project has taught him life lessons including reminding him to enjoy every step of the project.
“It’s a question of perspective and the difference between what you want and what you need,” he says. He notes that, on the island, the people are positive, everyone knows one another and they take care of people who need help.
He is also reminded that while planning for a renovation is important, getting so focused one is afraid to make changes or step outside the plan can be limiting.
“On the island, when the material you ordered doesn’t show up or something is broken, you have no choice but to accept it, change your plan and move on,” he says.
Bryan Baeumler will appear live on the HGTV Canada Main Stage Friday, October 25, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, October 26, at 1 p.m.
Q&A with our readers
Q: How involved or complex should the renovations be to make your home “age out” efficient without compromising the value?
Bryan Baeumler: Depending on the original design of the home, there are so many options available that it may be best to meet with an architect or interior designer that specializes in accessible design to get an opinion. That being said, I feel the best thing you can do to prepare your home for accessibility is focus on creating open-concept space as much as possible. This could include removing walls that restrict movement or access throughout the home, opening up doorways and archways to at least 36 inches to allow wheelchairs and walkers to easily pass through, expanding a bathroom to allow for a barrier-free shower, installing plywood or blocking behind bathroom walls to allow for easy installation of grab bars, and looking at options to install stairlifts or an elevator if the space allows. Ramps and other modifications can be created to allow easy access while still being functional, or removable for a potential buyer who might not want them. With an ever growing population of seniors, I believe there will always be a strong market for homes that suit their needs.
Q: How much damage did Dorian do to your resort? Can you recover from this disaster?
BB: Dorian missed our Island and passed about 100 miles to the north. While we weren’t directly affected by the storm, unfortunately many of our local employees have family on Abaco and Grand Bahama that were affected, injured and/or lost. We’ve been providing relief flights into those hard hit areas with Makers Air out of Fort Lauderdale, sending much needed supplies. We have also secured housing for up to 20 families on South Andros Island for people who have lost everything and need to relocate, and we have been supporting relief agencies on the ground financially through the Baeumler Family Foundation, at gofundme.com/f/caerula-mar-hurricane-dorian-relief.
Q: We have a summer cottage on an island in the Laurentian Mountains, just one hour north of Montreal. Due to the fact that we have no electricity, this home is only used for the summer season. The only means of heating is a wood stove, so throughout the cold months the house tends to shift (constrict and expand). What would you recommend for flooring and for a tub surround that would allow for movement of the house?
BB: Without keeping the heat on throughout the winter, there’s really no way to stop the expansion and contraction. As the humidity drops and things get colder, they shrink—which means gaps in hardwood and trim, and shrinking walls and subfloor, which leads to cracked tiles (if there is no uncoupling surface below them). Different materials will expand and contract at different rates, hence the problem. Your best bet for flooring might be a floating floor—vinyl, laminate or an engineered hardwood (although even engineered hardwood may shift in such extremes). For a tub surround, you may want to look into full veneer wall panels, or a prefab tub surround.
11-year-old Kaitlyn, with help from mom Amanda Sidhu, gives Dr. James Lee a wave during her online appointment with the B.C. Children’s Hospital specialist. Kaitlyn was in Abbotsford, Lee in Vancouver Kent Kallberg
For Amanda Sidhu, ensuring her daughter Kaitlyn got the medical care she needed was complicated and time-consuming, living as they do in Mission.
As an 11-year-old with semi lobar holoprosencephaly, a brain condition that causes seizures, diabetes and bone problems, Kaitlyn sees several doctors at B.C. Children’s Hospital every couple of months. She uses a wheelchair, doesn’t speak and is fed through a tube.
Trips to the hospital were disruptive. Amanda had to take a day off work and arrange for a nurse to be in the car for the one-hour-plus drive each way into Vancouver for a 15-minute appointment.
The trips stressed out mom and daughter, who dislikes car rides and associates the hospital with the unpleasant experience of surgeries, said Amanda.
So she welcomes the opening of the two virtual care sites in the Fraser Valley, in Abbotsford and Chilliwack, which allows Kaitlyn to have an appointment online with neurologist Dr. James Lee and her other specialists.
“It takes a lot of the stress from her, like a long 2½-hour drive in the car, and this is just a short drive from home,” said Amanda, after Kaitlyn’s virtual appointment on Friday at the Abbotsford Regional Hospital. “It’s great, Dr. Lee’s amazing, and we’re able to talk about everything we need to talk about and get everything figured out over the computer.”
And Kaitlyn can be cared for by the nurse at the centre, if needed, she said.
She said she has friends and relatives who live in the Interior and they have to take a week off to travel to Vancouver for appointments.
The two sites in the Fraser Health region — where about 300,000, or 40 per cent of B.C.’s children, live — are the 18th and 19th virtual sites opened in B.C. for young patients to have virtual appointments with B.C. Children’s Hospital doctors, according to the hospital.
“This is a great opportunity for patients to get care closer to home,” said Lee, who said the video conferencing option removes the geographical and distance barriers to health care.
Having a virtual appointment can “decrease the burden of travel on our patients and their families,” especially with patients with complex medical needs that require seeing several specialists, he said.
A nurse is always in the room and can take vital signs and other measurements for the doctor, he said.
He said most young people are comfortable using computers to communicate. “For young people and children, this is probably completely pretty natural for them because they may not have known anything else,” he said.
It’s an innovative way to deliver care to pediatric patients across the province, said Kit Johnson, a provincial director with Child Health B.C.
The virtual sites are located in rooms with child-friendly decorations and pediatric equipment in facilities for health care providers, including hospitals, health units and wellness centres.
The 19 telehealth centres in B.C. is part of a collaboration between Child Health B.C., B.C. Children’s Hospital and the provincial health authorities.
B.C. Children’s Hospital doctors do about 140 virtual appointments a month.
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